Owners and operators of Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) are preparing to lay a serious case before Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler for duty free concessions after Minister of Transport Michael Lashley flatly rejected their calls for a hike in bus fares.
At three hours of talks on Monday involving more than 100 PSV operators, the group agreed to abandon its push to collect more from passengers and instead ask the Government for a tax ease in light of aging vehicles and high insurance and maintenance costs.
Chairman of the Alliance of Owners of Public Transport, Roy Raphael, told Barbados TODAY the issue was raised at last Friday’s talks with Lashley, who informed the group that they would have to take up the issue with the Ministry of Finance.
“We are no longer interested in pursuing the bus fare aspect but due to the fact that a lot of our vehicles are aging – more than 75 percent of our vehicles are over four years, we felt that the time is ripe to ask the ministry to give us some consideration for duty free concessions.”
Raphael added that PSV owners are set to hold talks shortly to compile all the necessary information to present to Sinckler.
The private transport operators had also pressed the Transport Minister to review fines imposed by the court, but that too was turned down by Lashley who made it clear that he would not get involved in judicial matters.
Still Raphael insists the group did not leave the marathon meeting, which lasted about five hours, empty handed.
He said the Ministry of Transport was given a month to address a number of other grievances and they had received assurances from Lashley that the issues would be dealt with.
“Some of these include a case for the guys from the north to return to Baxter’s Road. A number of vehicles were rerouted to Fontabelle and this has affected business tremendously so the minister has given us a commitment on that. He also gave us a commitment on relocating some of the vans in the River van stand. We also pressed for the installation of security lighting.
“Consideration is also going to be made on improvements to Speightstown. Then there’s Warrens, we are looking at building a new terminal at Warrens. Another concern was bus stops, from the point of view that there are not enough bus stops and a lot of our members are being reported,” Raphael said.
Even as the group awaits the Government to address its concerns, Raphael said AOPT was engaged in its own house cleaning as it continued efforts to clean up the image of PSVs.
“A stern warning has been given to operators who continue to flaunt the law. We had a stern discussion with them and we have asked the public to continue to send us any information that would lead to these operators that continue bad practices so they can be brought before our disciplinary committee. We have also warned the owners that it is their livelihood and they need to take charge of their vehicles, because we have some owners out there who just give vehicles on lease and they only see the dollar.”
The AOPT head said the group would soon be officially launching a campaign entitled Rebuild, Rebrand and Refocus, which has already been tested and proven.
“I can say to you that we have seen some improvements in the driving style of some people. We have seen an increase in the number of persons wearing uniforms, we have also seen less complaints from the public so we are seeing some improvements from that campaign.”
The initiative would also see insurance companies coming on board and the introduction of the GPS (global positioning system) system to allow for better monitoring of the conduct of operators.
“This GPS system will soon be rolled out. It will allow all PSVs to be tracked, so that if something happens, members of the public can take photos, send it via social media and it will reach the command centre,” Raphael said.
“Our aim is to change the negative perception of PSVs and encourage the public to have more confidence as they travel on public transport in Barbados. We want to show the public a different face of PSVs in Barbados, we are a very important part of the transportation industry,” he said.