Nearly three months after the much-touted integrated transport system was officially launched, residents of St John have been left waiting at the bus stop, with no clear indication coming from Government as to when their promised new service will arrive.
In response to complaints made to Barbados TODAY by some residents who had been eagerly looking forward to the integrated system involving the state-run Transport Board and private operators of public service vehicles (PSVs), Director of Transport at the Transport Authority Alex Linton today confirmed that several challenges were encountered along the way. As a result, he said, the Martin’s Bay, St John leg of the integration never got off the ground.
“Unfortunately, there are challenges that have caused us to have a relook and pause that route, and, until those are addressed, we simply cannot make any serious inroads into that route at this juncture,” Linton told Barbados TODAY.
“We are actually trying to see what we can do in that location. I have actually had some discussions with the political representative for that area [Mara Thompson], and some ideas have been put forward, but we still have to take a more serious look and see what we really can do to try to improve, under this project label, to improve public transport. But for right now, St John is on a hold,” he added.
In launching the Government-led Transport Authority Integrated Service (TASI) last December 1, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley had promised commuters a more reliable and disciplined bus service on the three routes identified –– Edey Village, Christ Church; Sturges, St Thomas and Martin’s Bay, St John.
However, Linton has blamed the “horrible” state of the roads for the delay in getting the initiative going in St John.
“When we traversed down there after some heavy showers late last year, we recognized that we are going to be incurring or hearing a lot of out-of-service comments, especially from the [private] operators because the road is really horrible,” he said.
He also pointed out that crews from the Barbados Water Authority were doing some work in that area as well.
“So we are looking at doing an alternative route, and that is a next challenge . . . there is no real serious alternative route that we can utilize to make sure we get to that area; so we need to take care of that challenge primarily,” the Director of Transport explained.
Linton said there were other logistical problems with St John, pointing out that if the buses used the Clifton Hall road leading to Martin’s Bay, it would result in a significant increase in maintenance costs for PSV operators involved in the TASI.
“I am talking about when you get to Clifton Hall towards Martin’s Bay, there are some road works in terms of the relaying of some pipes and it has caused a narrowing of the road, but the road in itself from Clifton Hall to Martin’s Bay, . . . has some significant challenges,” he acknowledged.
He also said while residents were eager to have an improved bus service, “we still have to weigh all the pros and cons on the area at this time”.
In the meantime, Linton reported that after some initial problems with scheduling, the Edey Village service was up and running. He also noted that some other challenges were encountered along that route but said the Christ Church residents had been praising the initiative, which allows them to have a regular transport service, especially during “offbeat” times.
With respect to Sturges, Linton acknowledged that there were still some challenges with the late night and weekend services.
However, he said Government was working with operators to ensure that “if there is no demand, we would relook at it and reduce supplies and try to get it to align correctly”.
Linton said the Authority was also collecting the necessary data “to determine if and how the project would be expanded to provide a more reliable, adequate and safe public transport”.