The decision to charge school children the full adult fare of $2 for travelling on privately owned public service vehicles (PSV) is not cast in stone.
This assurance comes from the head of the Alliance for Public Transport Operators (APTO), Morris Lee, who says his organization is willing to meet with Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley to thrash out the issue.
Lee told Barbados TODAY that his association was willing to relaunch negotiations on a proposal made last year by the operators for an increase in the adult bus fare.
However, last week’s fare hike for school children came without the blessing of the Ministry of Transport and Works, with Lashley telling Barbados TODAY that though the 50 cents increase had been discussed with his ministry, there was no conclusion to those talks which formed part of a wider discussion on duty-free concessions for the private operators.
Lashley also made it clear that operators who were working with Government under the Transport Authority Service Integration project – which is currently active along the Sturges/Edey Village route – continued to charge students the $1.50 bus fare as opposed to $2.
The minister, who at the time was recovering from a throat infection, promised to seek a meeting shortly with the operators to iron out the current differences.
However, Lee made it clear today that while members of his association remained open to discussion, they were not prepared to leave the bargaining table empty handed.
“The operators have argued that it is no longer wise for us to be offering a concession when for the last 20 years we have not been the recipients of any form of concessions. However, there are other ways that the shortfall can be made up. For example, the operators could consider continuing the granting of this 50 cents concession [to school children] if they are allowed to charge adults the additional 50 cents,” Lee said.
Last June, APTO, in conjunction with the Alliance of Owners of Public Transport (AOPT), sent a proposal to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler requesting that they be allowed to adjust fares to $3.
Among the arguments put forward at the time was the rising cost of vehicle maintenance as a result of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which increased from two to ten per cent last July on the customs value of both imported and domestically produced goods. However, that proposal did not find favour with Government, even though Lee maintains that the cost of doing business was now even higher than when it was drafted.
“We are on record as having made a proposal to the Government for a fare increase of one dollar and the last time bus fares were increased was back in 2010. Between that time and now every single good and service that we require for the running of these buses has increased significantly and what has added insult to injury is the increase of the NSRL.
“We understand that the children don’t work anywhere and they have to be supported. So we are open to dialogue that enables us to continue with this concession,” the APTO president said.