The privately owned public transport sector says it is not backing down from its demands for increased bus fares and duty-free concessions on imported vehicles, given the burden of high taxation and insurance premiums.
Following a recent joint committee meeting of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) and the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) held at the Barbados Community College (BCC), spokesperson for the joint committee Ingrid King also called on Government to speed up construction work on the River Bus Terminal.
“Clearly we cannot give up in terms of trying to represent the membership. We will not be deterred. It’s been a long and sometimes very difficult struggle,” King said.
However, she was disappointed that their calls for rationalization of the public transportation sector had seemingly fallen on deaf ears given what they deemed to be the “obvious” need for such a review.
“There are obvious areas where the commuters are suffering, whether it be unavailability [of buses], whether it is in terms of inconsistency in scheduling, but we definitely have problems we need to address,” King told Barbados TODAY.
She also acknowledged that there were concerns about the lawless behaviour of some people in the public service vehicle industry, while stressing that the owners could not resolve these issues without the assistance of law enforcement.
“As we said for years, believe it or not, owners are often not aware of the offences committed by drivers and the penalties they may have had to pay for them. I believe you know there is a process that before you hire a driver initially, that driver has to present you with a valid licence badge permit from the Licensing Authority. That is the Government’s way of saying to us, this is some person who is fit for employment in this sector in this particular job,” she said, while also pointing out that owners were required to send their drivers to the insurance companies for approval before they could be hired and placed on a vehicle policy.
“So I think you can see that there are several places where the process is breaking down,” she added.
“If they are not aware, we are also not aware. So when we as owners get the go ahead, we are doing it with the understanding that we have people who are fit for employment. Now when these offences occur they are reported by the police without any notification being sent to the owners [and] they might appear in court without any notification being sent to the owners,” she further explained.
King stressed that it was the country’s judicial authorities and the insurance companies that had all the information on
road traffic violations, while stressing that if that information were not shared with the owners, it was wrong to ask them to take responsibility for something they knew little to nothing about.
During the meeting, operators affirmed their commitment to delivering a safe, orderly and reliable service to the Barbadian public. However, they expressed regret over the current administration’s slow approach to addressing the outstanding issues.