Minibus owner Victor Mottley is not a happy man, and is fuming over a decision by the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW) to pull private operators from the Sturges, St Thomas route to make way for the much-touted Transport Authority Service Integration (TASI) project.
Mottley told Barbados TODAY TASI was crippling his business and that of other owners and operators, and was nothing but a means of enriching a few at the expense of the majority.
Designed primarily to reduce the inconveniences associated with the Transport Board bus schedules, TASI was introduced in December 2015 as an experimental programme of combining the services of the Barbados Transport Board and private operators of public service vehicles (PSVs) on some routes, beginning with Edey Village, Christ Church, with Sturges added later.
It has since been extended, and has been hyped as a resounding success by Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley.
However, operators who were removed from the route are singing a different song, complaining of crushing financial losses.
The main point of contention for Mottley was that, having been made to move against their will, operators were being assigned to highly saturated routes.
He explained that since the start of the TASI programme, 11 minibuses had been pulled from the Sturges route and replaced by only the three selected for the project.
“I have one bus which is now plying the Oistins to Speightstown bypass, and since these programmes started buses have been shifted to the bypass, Jackson, and all over. It makes it more difficult on the bypass and on Jackson because they are bringing countless ZRs to the point that it is impossible to get a driver in Jackson. There are so many now that that they are just parked now waiting for drivers because the drivers know they can’t make any money in Jackson,” Mottley complained.
“The bypass is not any better. I am getting less than half of what I was making before the other buses from the Sturges route came,” he added.
The PSV owner argued that it was only obvious that the project would seem successful, as those now operating the routes did so without the pressure of competition.
“If you had 11 before and now you have three, it is only obvious that they would be happy because they raking in lots of money.”
PSV owner David Douglin had his minibus pulled from the Sturges route almost a year ago.
He told Barbados TODAY it has since been languishing in his garage because he was yet to be assigned a suitable replacement route.
Douglin said upon being advised by
MTW officials that his bus would be removed from Sturges, he was promised a route of his choice.
However, almost one year later and after spending close to $30,000 to repair his vehicle, he has been unable to see any return on his investment. He also shared with Barbados TODAY, a letter from Director of Transport Alex Linton dated October 25 this year in which he was given a month to settle over $7,000 in outstanding licence fees, even though his bus remained off the road.
“It is not fair to me; and when I tried to contact [the MTW official] I am getting no response, which means that he is either out of the office or he is too busy to see me,” a frustrated Douglin said.
He revealed that he had become so exasperated that he invited his lawyer to accompany him to the Transport Authority on November 29 this year, hoping to have his plight resolved.
However, even that effort had been in vain.
“We sat there for three hours and still no show. I can’t take it anymore because my bus is paid up in road tax and insurance and no route to run,” Douglin said.
In addition, he told Barbados TODAY that owners felt slighted by the abrupt manner in which they were informed of their planned reassignment, which left them with little time to adjust.
“I was informed when I received a call from [MTW] sometime in November 2015, that the persons who were not participating in the TASI programme would be re-routed. Up to the time when they would have made it public, I had no information as to how things would go because I figured if they are doing the TASI programme and they selected who they wanted, then I would still be allowed to run on my respective route. It was only
when I got that call just before the programme started was when I found out that I would no longer be operating the Sturges route,” he revealed.