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Gordon Town Road headache

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Gordon Town Road headache

Travel cost hiked on three-hour treacherous alternative route

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

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The collapsed section of Gordon Town Road in St Andrew is becoming a headache for residents who have pointed out that the alternative Irish Town to Newcastle thoroughfare is a three-hour drive through steep, rugged terrain.

And, as if the treacherous journey was not enough, operators of bike and motorcar taxis have doubled, and in some instances tripled, the usual $100 fare for passengers travelling between Papine and Mavis Bank, and as far as Hagley Gap in St Thomas.

According to the taxi operators, the longer time spent traversing the pothole-riddled road, as well as the wear and tear on their vehicles, require fair compensation for the hassle.

“I had to take the alternative route through Newcastle on Saturday and it take mi three hours and half-tank a gas. Mi not going back around there,” said taxi operator Rohan Lee.

“That road is not good,” he added. “You have some manholes around there. It is not a safe route for taxis. Yuh haffi have a four-wheel drive fi go round dem place deh. If somebody get sick and need fi go hospital, dem woulda dead before dem reach,” Lee said.

The road collapsed during persistent heavy rain from the outer bands of hurricanes Zeta and Eta over the past three weeks.

Yesterday, commuters who spoke with the Jamaica Observer complained that without any other alternative, the spike in transportation cost has made their lives more difficult.

An elderly woman, for example, who had travelled from her home in Line Castle, St Thomas, to University Hospital of the West Indies in Papine for an X-ray yesterday morning, told the Observer that she had to pay $500 in transportation cost on just the first leg of her journey. This, she said, was almost double her usual expense.

“Normally, it cost me $250 to come to Papine from Hagley Gap. This morning I had to pay $300 to come to Gordon Town, and then another $100 from Gordon Town to Papine,” said the 69-year-old woman who asked not to be named.

The St Thomas resident explained that she was on the road to Hagley Gap minutes after 3:00 am in order to catch the first bus going to Papine so that she could make it in time for her doctor’s appointment. Other stops for food items had to be abandoned, the woman said.

“That would cost me more money for the men to carry it across the breakaway there for me, so mi have fi leave that out,” she said.

The congestion of minibuses, route taxis and bikes along the narrow, winding corridor was indicative of the high demand among residents for access to goods and services in Papine, the nearest commercial centre.

Rose Young, a resident of Savage Pen, told the Observer that she had to walk almost one mile from her community to get a taxi into the town. That was a better alternative, she said, than having to travel nearly three hours through Irish Town to get to Papine.

“That road doesn’t make any sense. How me must live just down the road from Papine and have to travel all the way through Irish Town to come down here?” said Young.

In a release on Monday, National Works Agency Communications Manager Stephen Shaw announced that plans were afoot to create a shorter route through Savage Pen into the Kingston metropolitan area for the residents of Gordon Town and other nearby communities.

“The agency commenced work on this road late last week and had several challenges over the weekend, given the hilly terrain and the need to remove several encroachments, including building materials and old vehicles,” the statement read.

The works are expected to be completed within three weeks.

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