Not quite $5 as critics feared – but commuters may soon have to pay as much as $4 for bus fare on public and private transport, Minister of Transport Dr William Duguid, has declared.
Contending that the current fare of $2 charged by the Transport Board and public service vehicles (PSVs) is inadequate, Duguid told the House Estimates Debate that while an increase was coming it was yet to be determined by how much those fares would be raised.
But he said: “We haven’t made the decision if it will go up by a $1.50 or if it will go up by $2, we don’t know now, but certainly all of that has to be accessed to make a decision as to where bus fares will go.”
He argued that while bus fares have not moved in the last two decades, the price of doing business in all sectors had increased.
Duguid told the House Standing Finance Committee: “We have a lot of work to do and we have to look at the fares that are being charged. We have not decided yet but we have to make a decision what the bus fare will go to. Obviously you would appreciate that bus fare in Barbados has not gone up for 20 years, but everything else has gone up. The price of supplies has gone up, the price of diesel has gone up, the price of insurance has gone up, the price of labour has gone up.”
But the minister gave an assurance that a raise in bus fares would lead to better service.
Duguid said: “What we do know is that we must bring order to the roads and there is no way that we will be looking at increasing the bus fare and not having a higher quality service where people are safe and where you can be confident that your child, or your grandchild, or your mother, or your sister, or your brother will be able to travel in a good, safe environment on the buses and on the PSVs of this country.”
As part of those improvements, Duguid also revealed plans to implement technology to track Transport Board buses, minibuses and route taxis.
He said the ministry was working on a programme alongside service provider BeepBus to give travellers real time information on where buses were at any given time.
“I believe some buses already have it and it’s not only buses, it’s also available to some PSVs,” Duguid told the select committee. “We are hoping to marry that with our transport augmentation programme so that all of those BeepBuses we are hoping to bring on will also have that GPS (Global Position Satellite navigation) available.”
Duguid said the ministry was also moving to a new cashless system where passes could pay for their rides using cell phones or a card.
Transport Board chairman Gregory Nicholls, who also appeared before the committee in the first such hearings on the Estimates, disclosed that the state-owned bus company is negotiating with service providers to provide a cashless fares and fleet management system.
He said the board was also contemplating installing WiFi Internet access on its buses.