A Transport Authority pilot project under which Transport Board buses began partnering with privately-owned public service vehicles on the Sturges, St Thomas route a mere three months ago, appears to be coming apart at the seams.
Member of Parliament for St Thomas Cynthia Forde voiced this concern after identifying areas where the service to Sturges had shown a noticeable decline since the project was introduced on December 1, last year.
During an interview with Barbados TODAY, Forde reported that on many occasions commuters had told her that during afternoon rush hour periods, minibuses assigned to the Sturges route under the pilot project were withdrawn and placed on the more lucrative Speightstown route.
Forde further complained that workers employed in the tourism sector, security and the nursing profession were forced to use Transport Board buses to get home after work because some minibus crews complained of tiredness and an inability to ply the route in the late hours of the night.
Contending the pilot project had failed, Forde pointed out that commuters in the Sturges area were extremely distressed about the poor quality of service being offered by the private transport sector as well as the Transport Board.
The long-standing Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) parliamentarian charged that the decision to include Sturges in the pilot project had come like “a bolt out of the blue” and had seen the number of units plying the route fall from 12 per day to a mere four.
She pointed out that there were many remote districts in her constituency that needed a proper bus service, especially at nightfall.
“The decision to include Sturges in the pilot project put a terrible blow on those persons who are living in the remotest of areas. I am speaking about places like Lion Castle and Highland. If it is raining, it makes it more difficult for commuters,” Forde told Barbados TODAY.
She complained that after building friendly relationships with six to eight mini-bus operators over the years, three to four new minibus operators had been foisted on the residents of Sturges.
“Everyone knew the drivers of the six or eight [operators] who worked on the route. Everyone knew which driver would play music, so the more mature passengers waited for the ones that did not play music.
“Some of the drivers lived in the communities on the route so residents knew them. For example, if a parent wanted her child taken from Sturges corner to Holy Innocents Primary School any morning that she could not make it, the parent could ask the driver to put the child down at the crossing in front of the school. This is not the case now. They do not know the current drivers,” the Opposition MP said.
She questioned the roadworthiness of some of the vehicles currently plying the route, pointing to reports wheels breaking off a minibus passengers were being transported and others plying routes without spare tyres.