by Roy R. Morris
Barbados’ judicial system could be about to see a rare reversal. Some route taxi operators are threatening to take the Government to court, instead of the usual practice of authorities hauling operators before the judge.
That’s because operators say bus routes are awash with “pirates”, and they want authorities to act urgently and decisively to get them off the road.
In fact, so concerned are some operators that they have come together in an informal association to figure out how to keep their businesses from going under, and have enlisted the services of a lawyer to help them put their case to authorities.
But they have warned they are prepared to take the Ministry of Transport and Works and/or the Barbados Licensing Authority to court if they do not act to end practises that could put them out of business.
Operator Roy Raphael, speaking to Barbados TODAY on behalf of the newly “formed” Association of Owners of PSVs, said there could be as many as 90 “pirate” vehicles working on routes servicing all parts of the island.
And in a swift response to questions from Barbados TODAY, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley warned he had already met with the Transport Authority on the matter and illegal operators could expect swift and decisive action.
While he declined to say what action was contemplated, Lashley said he was aware that the authority had been engaged in discussion with the police and the appropriate response was being put in place.
In the meanwhile though, Raphael and his colleagues are insisting that on-the-spot impounding of vehicles found to be engaged in the illegal transporting of passengers for fare should be a main plank in any action taken by the Transport Authority.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand the scale of the problem. Up to a few weeks ago we counted as many as 30 pirate vans operating on the Market Hill route alone,” he said.
“Now they don’t pay the high fees we have to, their insurance, if they are insured, will be as high as ours, and they stop anywhere to pick up passengers. How can we survive under such conditions?”
To point out the scale of the problem, Raphael explained that there were now “pirate” vehicles competing against the state-owned Transport Board on the recently inaugurated ABC Highway route, while on any given day illegal vans can be found plying the Checker Hall route in St. Lucy and the Six Roads route in St. Philip.
He explained too that whereas in the early the practise was undertaken by persons operating vans with private number plates, today a number of the pirates were “taxi vans” with ZM plates, which are not licensed to pick up and set down passengers along bus routes.
“As owners we want a better deal,” Raphael said. “We are satisfied that the police are fully aware of the extent of the problem, and the truth is they do take action from time to time, but the pirates keep coming back. What we need is firm action, consistent action.”
He added: “It has to be understood that we operate under rules and if the authorities impose rules then they have a duty to protect us from people who don’t follow the rules. If they don’t then I believe it is only fair that the courts should be asked to determine if we don’t have a legitimate claim. And we are prepared to test it.” [email protected]
by Roy R. Morris