Some respite is under way for commuters hard hit by chronic bus shortages.
Minister of Transport and Works William Duguid today revealed that an additional 30 buses have been placed on the road, strengthening somewhat the severely depleted Transport Board bus fleet, and placing the state-owned bus company in a better position to meet the travelling needs of students and the wider public when the new term begins next month.
In addition, Duguid said, another ten vehicles will be added in time for the new academic year which begins on September 10.
The minister explained that while 105 buses were far from ideal, the situation was far better than the mere 62 that were available earlier this year, when passengers, including students, were being left stranded for hours.
“We have now got our bus availability up to 92 and our target is to reach 179, but certainly by the time school starts back I am reliably told that we would get the compliment up to 105 buses. This is absolutely important for us in the next few weeks so that our children can get to school on time and also get home on time,” Duguid told reporters during a walkthrough of the Transport Board’s Weymouth headquarters, the Fairchild Street Bus Terminal and the Princess Alice Bus Terminal with Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works Peter Phillips and Chairman of the Transport Board Gregory Nicholls.
It was Nicholls who said last month there were only 80 buses on the road, but about 30 were breaking down daily.
“The commercial life of a bus is ten years. The last time the Transport Board bought buses was in 2006, so our newest fleet is two years past the normal period for the retention of buses . . . [and] when buses get in the depot between one and 2 a.m, they have to be deployed to get out there for 4:45 a.m., so they are only getting two hours’ rest,” Nicholls said then.
In order to find a temporary solution until replacement vehicles can be bought, a decision was taken after the Barbados Labour Party took up office three months ago to have the mechanics at the Transport Board work around the clock to get as many buses as possible back in working order, Duguid said today.
“I salute the initiative of the board to put lights at Weymouth so that they can not only work on the buses on an eight-hour shift but throughout the night so that we can get that availability up to the level that we want, It is clear that we still have a lot of work to do,” he explained.
Extensive delays have become the norm in recent years as the number of buses run by the cash-strapped transport system continued to break down.
In some cases, students were forced to wait until after 8 p.m. for a bus home from school, raising serious concerns about the public bus service’s ability to run a school service in conjunction with its various daily scheduled routes.
However, Duguid said today that even though strides were being made to ease the concerns of the travelling public, there was a still a long way to go before normal service with a full complement of vehicles could be restored.
“We have buses that we rotate so this evening about 20 or so are going to come off the road and we would put another 20 back on the road. Some of these buses are over 20 years old and have already had major repairs done on them. So we can’t estimate what is going to happen to a particular bus tomorrow,” the minister stressed. firstname.lastname@example.org