On day three of a new bus fare regime, Government hastily returned to the drawing board offering a measure of relief to disgruntled commuters, including an across-the-board $3 fare for those passengers who purchase any one of the four Transport Board’s Smart Cards.
And in a change of heart, Prime Minister Mia Mottley revealed that school children travelling on public service vehicles (PSVs) will pay $2.50.
She made the announcements following an over two-hour meeting with stakeholders in public transport at Government Headquarters.
Agreements were also reached to integrate PSVs into the Transport Board’s brand and on changes to be made to how PSV operators are disciplined.
Noting that her Government was working towards rebuilding the fleet of the Transport Board, Mottley said that “privately-owned PSVs have agreed that they will not charge school children more than $2.50.
“In the case of the Transport Board buses that $2.50 obviously is paid by Government. In the case of the PSVs that are privately-owned not working under the Transport Board brand, then the school child will pay $2.50.”
The Prime Minister said that having spoken with Ministers Senator Kay McConney and Cynthia Forde, a decision had also been taken to give a discount to those Transport Board users who bought rides in bulk in the form of a smart card.
She said this would reduce the discount fare from $3.20 to $3.
Mottley declared: “We’ve also agreed that in some instances, that I’ve listened carefully to the pleas of my two Ministers who have gone and interacted on the last two days with people across all terminals, there is a clear case for us to be able to ensure that the mass discount is available at all levels.
“So that if you are going to buy ten tickets or the larger amount whatever it is, that the volume discount will now be $3, so that you will literally have $30 get you the 10 rather than the fare you would have been paying at $3.20. Effectively $3 will be the price for all who are buying in bulk, regardless of whether it is 10 or 20 or 40.”
But the Prime Minister then lambasted the state-owned Transport Board over its treatment of commuters.
Saying that she was “fed up” and “disgusted” with the current state of affairs in public transport, Mottley ordered the cash-strapped public bus service to make several improvements.
Among those is a thorough cleanup and beautification of all of its bus terminals, as well as better communication to commuters by those working at those terminals.
While she acknowledged that the current Transport Board could not be held accountable for the errors of the past government, including the fact that a bus had not been ordered in the last decade, Mottley said there were some areas where they would be held accountable.
She said: “But I can hold them accountable for the conditions of the terminals and I can hold them accountable for failing to communicate with the commuters, and I have made it absolutely clear this morning that Barbados cannot operate with that sense of callousness with respect to what conditions people have to wait in and what we are going to do to minimize their need to wait.
“We accept that the Transport Board has to be far more capable of communication. Nobody can’t tell you that a bus isn’t going to break down, but there is nobody holding your tongue and you can’t have a bus terminal where people sitting down waiting for hours and nobody knows if the bus going or coming, or never coming. People have to open their mouths and speak to people.”
Attendees at the high-level meeting included Minister of Transport Dr William Duguid; Minister in the Ministry of Transport Peter Phillips, Elder Affairs Minister Cynthia Forde and Innovation Minister Senator Kay McConney; chairman of the Transport Board Gregory Nicholls; General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union Senator Toni Moore; chairman of the Transport Authority Ian Estwick; and representatives from the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT), the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO), and the Public Service Vehicles Workers’ Association (PSVWA).
Following the meeting two organisations representing PSV owners and operators, AOPT and PSVWA, announced their full support of the plans for the public transport system.
AOPT spokesman Mark Haynes and PSVWA president Fabian Wharton both declared their support to Prime Minister Mottley.
Saying he was satisfied with the day’s discussions, Haynes told Barbados TODAY: “I must say that the Prime Minister was very livid by the developments in the transportation sector and rightfully so. I don’t think she meant it personally, she was just annoyed by what was going on. Her main remit and concern was about Barbados’ commuters.
“She has requested all of her technocrats to work together assiduously to ensure that the transportation system is improved and the conditions for commuters are improved.”
But he said that the issue of some PSV operators being moved to alternative routes by the Transport Authority had not been fully discussed.
He said that topic would be brought up during tomorrow morning’s discussions at the Barbados Workers’ Union’s Solidarity House headquarters.
Wharton said he, too, was pleased with the day’s proceedings.
He said while the issue of a reduced bus fare for school children was the hot topic of the day, several other concerns had also been addressed.
Wharton said the PSV workers’ body was also in agreement with the proposed move to have operators suspended before having their licences cancelled.
“Most of the operators were concerned about the school children and what fares they would have to pay. There was also talk about the three strike rule and we will wait and see how that goes, but we are willing to work as a unit with the Prime Minister to help improve the sector,” he said.
“We are satisfied with the discussions so far and so far we are satisfied with the outcome. The discussions were honest, frank and open,” he said.