The operators of public service vehicles (PSVs) have a counterproposal for the Ministry of Transport which is currently mulling over the installation of security technology and the deployment of personnel on school buses to keep students in check.
Chairman of the Alliance of Owners of Public Transport Operators (AOPTO) Roy Raphael believes the time has come for Government to give serious consideration to privatizing the school bus service.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY, Raphael said while he understood the reasoning behind the proposed move disclosed by Minister of Transport Michael Lashley, he felt the Ministry could avoid increasing its expenses by allowing private operators to run “an efficient and well regulated” school bus service.
“I don’t know how much longer that Government will be able to sustain the bus service for school children. I believe the time has come for them to privatize the school bus service and allow the private concessionaires and operators like ourselves to run the school bus service.”
Against the backdrop of deviant behaviour in terminals and on buses, including vandalism, Minister Lashley told Barbados TODAY yesterday he was in favour of the two-pronged approach to “see what is happening and really to take control over certain behaviours out there.”
Raphael said in recent times PSV operators have not had any “major issues” relating to the behaviour of pupils using their buses and insisted that members of his organization who would be prepared to transport the nation’s children would operate with the highest integrity.
He has however proposed that the private school service be separate from regular bus services.
“They should be special vehicles that are designed for that purpose of serving schools. They should be special permits for these persons to operate, perhaps working from 9am until 3pm or later. We don’t want them getting involved in other activities; these buses would be solely for moving the island’s school children to their respective destinations.”
Noting that such a system was presently being used successful in neighbouring Caribbean countries, Raphael however said that the Minister of Transport would have to revisit the issue of bus fares. Currently school children travel free on Government buses. He suggested the reintroduction of fares might be necessary to ensure that operators can consistently provide optimal service.
“Right now the children ride free but the Ministry of Education pays the Transport Board so it is not a free ride. What we can do with transport authorities is to sit down with them and negotiate the cost, whether they choose to subsidize or charge a fare.”
The AOPTO chairman added there were all round benefits for a privatized bus service system, insisting that it should be seriously examined.
“ It has worked in other countries and there are little or no issues. Students can even be picked up from home. If they want us to be part of a private service providing public transport for schools we are prepared to sit with them [Transport Ministry] and look at it. ”