There is no immediate relief in sight for commuters hard hit by chronic bus shortages.
In a statement issued today, the Transport Board cautioned that the challenges were likely to continue in the coming weeks.
The board explained that a number of its buses were undergoing inspection at the licensing authority, but the process had stalled because the hoist at the Ministry of Transport and Works had been out of commission for more than a year.
It added that it had been working with the ministry in search of an alternative location to have inspection done, but this too was being hampered by the unavailability of equipment.
Consequently, the Transport Board is appealing to the travelling public for patience as it seeks to improve the situation.
It was revealed last week that Grantley Adams Memorial School students had been left stranded until about 8 p.m. due to the shortage of buses, raising fresh concerns about the reliability of the state- run service.
Following the revelation, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley announced last night that he was considering the possibility of inviting privately-run public service vehicles (PSVs) to help transport pupils to and from school.
Speaking at the Democratic Labour Party St George South branch meeting at the Ellerton Primary School, Lashley assured party faithful that his ministry was willing to work with the PSV operators to ensure that there was no repeat of the incident.
“I want to say that only on Thursday private owners came forward to us stating that they are willing to participate in the moving of school children. What we have to do is consult them further and meet with them to make sure that we have the requisite terms and conditions in place,” the minister said.
“I have to stress conditions because we don’t want to take children out of an environment only to put them back in the same environment. However it is something worth looking at because the private sector people have made an outstanding contribution to transportation,” Lashley stressed.
However, head of the Association of Private Transport Operators (APTO) Morris Lee told Barbados TODAY that the involvement of the PSVs in transporting students would be fraught with logistical issues.
Lee explained that while the privately-run operators had the necessary capacity to help, certain conditions must first be met.
“We believe that we have the capacity to assist in this regard. There are some routes that are overcrowded with minibuses and ZRs and there are other routes where school children and workers have to wait two hours to get a bus. So if the minister meets with us the issue of supply and demand can be met.
“It has to also be considered that school children are on vacation three times per year. So you can’t structure a 52-week transport system on 35 weeks of income. This is the very reason that the Transport Board is subsidized. So the $2 system cannot work 35 weeks then you are parked for the rest of the year,” Lee argued.
He also suggested that Lashley was premature in making such a declaration without first discussing it with either of the two private sector transport bodies.
“The minister is fully aware that if his concerns are to be addressed, he should follow the appropriate protocol and not randomly talk to owners who on their own cannot help. Instead he should be talking to the two associations. It was drawn to my attention only this morning that the Transport Board is down to 65 buses now so we are already transporting 90 per cent of the travelling public,” Lee said.