Government is considering entering into a lease arrangement with the private sector to drive down the operating costs of the Transport Board, which is already boasting of $3 million in savings from fuel cuts alone.
Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley said this morning the arrangement could also see Government purchasing smaller buses from vehicle companies.
Speaking during a tour of Courtesy Garage to look at and test drive a new Nissan bus, Lashley said another option is a shared partnership with the state agency.
He revealed that the administration was examining the possibility of using the smaller buses on the short-haul routes as it moves to integrate the PSVs into the public transport system.
“Something like this [Nissan] we can dedicate to the shorter routes within the St Michael area and some outside the St Michael area. We are looking at bringing the maintenance costs at Transport Board down to a reasonable and manageable level,” Lashley explained.
“We can either enter into a lease arrangement or direct purchase, or even if the person wants to come and get involved directly in a shared partnership with the Transport Board. So I am pleased . . . and we are looking at moving forward with initiatives and we are not going to play dead,” he insisted.
Lashley acknowledged there would be questions about how Government proposes to incorporate the private sector vehicles into the public transport system.
“If you are going to incorporate the private sector into the programme, obviously you will have to put a regime in place. There must be monitoring, there must be inspection, there must be compliance with the statutory requirements, there must be training, there must be uniforms and these must be carefully picked in relation to a transparent process,” he said.
“So we are not going to set wild players out there who, of course, are known persons to the law in terms of very serious traffic offences. We are going to take a very careful look at persons who we would want to be involved. I am not here to influence any decisions in terms of persons who will be part of that, but I believe that there must be conditions that must be met.”
The minister gave the assurance that if the private-public partnership is successful, Government would still have to maintain a fleet of buses, rather than rely too heavily on the private vehicles since it has a social responsibility to Barbadians.
He warned that to depend too much on the private buses would be a dangerous move.
In a later interview with Barbados TODAY, Lashley said the Transport Board had already brought down its fuel costs from $18 million to $15 million.
He disclosed that the cash-strapped state entity is also considering other reforms such as the installation of GPS and tracking devices on buses and upgrades to bus terminals.
The minister said any savings would ease the burden on taxpayers.
Meantime, he announced that officials within his ministry will be meeting on September 28 with PSV operators, against claims by the Association of Private Transport Operators that there were 100 buses lying idle at the Transport Board’s Weymouth headquarters.
The minister described the claim as foolishness and said he looked forward to the meeting.
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