As business along the Caymanas stretch of the Mandela Highway heats up, the Jamaica Urban Transport Company, JUTC, is seeking subfranchisees to serve the newly created routes of Ferry, Kingston to Portmore, St Catherine and Mount Salus to Manor Park, in response to requests from residents and business operators, one of them being Panama-headquartered outsourcing company, Iterum Connections.
The area which was once known for its swamp lands and susceptibility to flooding became attractive to developers and investors around 2016 when the Government announced the Mandela Highway Realignment and Reconstruction project, to the tune of US$64 million.
The project involved road construction works comprising extensive soft soil treatment, construction of a 3.5-kilometre six-lane corridor with a two-lane overpass bridge, two new three-lane bridges at Fresh River, a two-lane service road adjacent to the main roadway to facilitate the development of Caymanas Estate, and upgrading of the Six Miles Interchange.
It was enough to get development company Cascade Group Jamaica to create a commercial complex on 94 acres of land it owned in Ferry Pen at the corner of Tom Cringle Drive and Mandela Highway.
The commercial park, now known as Kingston 876, is home to Iterum, Tropical Battery Company, Nestle Jamaica, and Derrimon Trading Company’s distribution hub.
Across from that sits the newly developed Fesco ‘destination’ service station, which incorporates a Tastee outlet, FYC Mart, bill payment outlet and ATM.
The Fesco development was expected to bring 120 jobs to the area. The majority – some 10,000 workers from relocated offices and newly created businesses – was expected to come from the Kingston 876 commercial development.
Iterum itself operates a call centre that has seating capacity for 900 agents. But the limited number of buses plying the route is said to be creating an issue for the growing commercial district.
“We had requests from residents living in the area, but, in the case of Ferry, we had requests from both individuals and business operators because there is new land use. Having a BPO like Iterum in the area would increase commuter usage,” corporate communications manager at JUTC, Cecil Thoms Jr, told the Financial Gleaner.
Outsourcing companies or BPOs often arrange transportation for their workers, particularly those running graveyard shifts. In instances where public transport is limited, the company may opt to shuttle its workers, which ultimately pushes up expenses.
Currently, the JUTC has only two Kingston bus routes – 15A and 16A – that traverse Ferry Pen along the way to the Greater Portmore, St Catherine.
“After we got the requests, we did some surveys on both routes and those were approved because it made sense to have transportation in those areas,” Thoms said.
“For the Mount Salus route, we understand that persons are plying that route illegally and we thought it best to officially create the route to bring them into the formal system” he continued.
In both cases, the JUTC is looking to start with five subfranchisees that own a reliable five to seven-seater vehicles for each route. The state-run entity has been advertising the routes for a few months but to date has not received any applications.
“Because these are new routes, we determined that there wouldn’t be significant rush and people are normally resistant to change. Nevertheless, the routes will remain part of the offerings going forward,” Thoms said.