The Transport Board is in the early stages of developing a new and improved “master plan” for its future operations, which could see Government’s role reduced to a mere regulator of a privately-owned, public route network.
Chairman Gregory Nicholls in an interview with Barbados TODAY indicated that it is still “early days yet”, but predicted that the new structure would significantly reduce the financial burden currently placed on Government.
“All the buses will be painted the same, the drivers will continue to wear the same uniforms, but the Transport Board, instead of being an operator of 300 plus buses, will instead be a route manager,” said Nicholls.
“Instead of sinking $60 million of taxpayers’ money into the Transport Board, we will be trying to create a platform for the public transport sector to operate on a much more regulated and orderly basis but without the requirement of being subsidised to that extent by the public purse.
“We’re talking about a system where the Transport Board is not the owner of 300 plus buses, but more the regulator of a route network which will have much more private sector participation in the delivery of those services. That is the Government’s plan going forward,” revealed Nicholls.
He added that the new, profit-making endeavour would afford drivers at least a 20 per cent stake in the new entities to create opportunities for current drivers and operators to have an ownership in the business.
On Wednesday, Nicholls revealed that Government had awarded a tender for the provision of electric buses, adding that the Transport Board was well on the way to having the buses in the country by year-end.
“First of all, we have to sit down and negotiate a contract that is beneficial to the Government and people of Barbados while ensuring that the entity which won the bid is happy with the arrangement as well. So we have to make those determinations during negotiations,” he said.
Approximately two weeks ago, 85 workers, mostly bus drivers, accepted voluntary separation and early retirement packages as the Transport Board intensified restructuring efforts.
With further reform on the horizon, Nicholls said the Transport Board was engaged with trade unions on the structure of the entity amid numerous operational challenges, reduced subvention and a significantly depleted fleet.
“No one is anticipating that the Transport Board will have to own in excess of 300 buses again in order to service the network,” he said, adding that the plans could only be rolled out, when all stakeholders were on the same page.
“We have designed a master plan which we have submitted to Cabinet for approval. The unions have responded to a number of things that concern them and we have to continue those discussions and negotiations,” said Nicholls. firstname.lastname@example.org