The horrors of catching a bus after work could become even more nightmarish soon, as the Transport Board looks to prioritize the transportation of this island’s school children near evening peak times.
A depleted bus fleet is leaving the board with little choice but to scale back its service to the general public and make sure that school children are not left to wait until after dark to be collected from some of Barbados’ schools, says Chairman of the Transport Board Gregory Nicholls. He admits that the board is stretched and cannot meet all the needs of the travelling public.
Chairman Nicholls told Barbados TODAY it is unacceptable to have children still on the schools’ compounds waiting for a bus after 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“The board on Tuesday made a decision that schools must be the priority, particularly on evenings…because you can’t have a situation where school children are on the compound at schools after 6 and 7 o’clock. That is totally unacceptable. So with a reduced bus fleet the travelling public will have to understand now that the priority will be to move the school children between 2 and 5 o’clock from the schools,” Nicholls said, adding that if it means delays in the service, so be it.
In making his case, the board chairman observed that these are minors and “we have to be responsible people”. He said this action will continue until the bus fleet can be returned to a more reliable level.
“There are a number of buses that are awaiting inspection and we are going to go through that process with the ministry, the Transport Board and Licensing Authority. There are a number of buses being repaired by UCAL and Simpson Motors. That rollout has been a lot slower than anticipated because of the lack of availability of parts, largely through a lack of availability of resources to buy those parts,” he stated.
The board chairman noted that in more recent times Government has made some funding available and therefore everything must be done in context.
“We are also looking at a specialized bus service for school children. But those are things that we have to mitigate. At the same time we have a low availability of buses,” he said.
Nicholls told Barbados TODAY that while the board was putting plans in place to upgrade its fleet, they still had to ensure that school children get off the schools’ compound to their respective homes in a timely fashion.
He contended that this must be done while at the same time trying to mitigate the “horrors” that people experience in bus terminals waiting to get to their destinations.
The Transport Board chief said that having renewed a working relationship with UCAL, the bus company should be able to increase the number of buses on the road.
“We are satisfied that they are happy. Once they are happy, we feel we can get the numbers back up into the hundreds shortly. We are awaiting some parts from overseas…some engine blocks have been bought for some of the older cylinder engine buses. We are waiting on Simpson Motors to bring them in. These are buses that have been working since 1997 and the early 2000s. Those engines are not on a shelf that you could just go and get a six-cylinder engine that was made in 2000,” added Nicholls.
He explained that such engines have to be ordered, manufactured and shipped here and then still tested and assembled and later inspected by the Licensing Authority.
According to the chairman, in the past, the buses had been failing inspection. As a result, a team has now been established to ensure the buses are ready for inspection.