Member of Parliament for St Thomas Cynthia Forde has given a failing grade to government’s Transport Authority Service Integration (TASI) programme which came to an end in June last year.
The Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs said she was “extremely disturbed” at how the project, which cost over $1 million, had turned out.
“Unfortunately, it has been a terrible travesty for us,” said Forde.
First mooted in December 2015 as a six-month pilot, the project which combined the services of the Transport Board and private operators of public service vehicles (PSVs), was implemented by the Freundel Stuart-led Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration to address issues of reliability on some routes.
The Edey Village, Christ Church and Sturges, St Thomas routes were involved in the project which lasted two years. The Martin’s Bay, St John leg of the scheme did not get off the ground due to a host of challenges.
A “distressed” Forde said that based on feedback from her constituents in some communities, including Lion Castle, there were instances where buses were assigned to the routes but would instead take people to Speightstown, and “rip off” the signs that indicated they were part of the TASI project.
“They would go to Speightstown at the peak time when people want to go home, and therefore it had created quite some disturbances in the parish,” the MP said, arguing that only about one Transport Board bus would service some areas where people were “suffering in a terrible way”.
Forde argued that the money that was spent on the project could have been better spent converting at least one Transport Board bus into an electric-powered vehicle.
She said while the concept behind the TASI was a brilliant one, it was a poorly executed project that “fell apart”.
“I am asking and pleading, please, to find out what plans the Transport Authority has for the project,” said Forde, who also called for improved signage on the island’s roadways.
In response, Director of Transport in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance Alex Linton said the programme did achieve some measure of success, especially on the Edey Village route.
“We did increase the reliability in the Sturges route,” he added. “However, we had challenges relative to the maintenance of the units that were providing the service in Sturges and that proved to be very challenging.”
Linton acknowledged that the main challenge was that some of the minibus drivers on the Sturges route refused to service some communities, including Lion Castle and Bryan’s Road in St Thomas.
He said this was a constant problem due to a lack of inspectors to “monitor things 24/7”.
“That is why we need to move toward the use of GPS,” he said.
However, Linton gave the assurance that the Government would be introducing two new projects to address transportation issues across the island.
Without providing details, he said one of them would involve the reassignment of some minibuses from overcrowded routes to ones less serviced, adding that the concerns related to the Sturges route would be addressed and the journey should be a safer one.