With Government’s Transportation Augmentation Programme (TAP) failing to gain sufficient buy-in from route taxi owners, the Transport Board is now turning to ZMs (maxi taxis) to supplement the low bus complement of the state-owned transport service.
Ahead of his resignation this evening, Chairman of the Transport Board Gregory Nicholls revealed that his organisation was already seeing considerable interest from the maxi taxis.
As a matter of fact, while Nicholls was not able to give actual numbers, Barbados TODAY understands from a well-placed source that over 20 maxi taxis have already indicated their willingness to transition to
“There has not been a lot of buy-in from the PSV sector but there are a lot of others in the public transport sector who are asking to come into the system. For example, there are a number of ZM owners that are very keen. We are not going to get the initial target of 270 routes overnight, but I believe that once people see the success in the project, more will come on board. The numbers that we are getting will certainly augment the Transport Board’s service right now given the age of the buses and the unreliability of the fleet,” said Nicholls, who expressed confidence that TAP will be at peak efficiency in about three months.
Last week Chairman of the Transport Authority Ian Estwick claimed sabotage by some operators and admitted that with the programme, which was set to start last Sunday, the goal of contracting 100 private public service vehicles (PSVs) by that time was unlikely.
He told Barbados TODAY at the time that he estimated that around 20 PSVs would have signed onto the programme.
“Only a small number of PSVs have signed up so far…I don’t think that we’re going to hit the ground running and that we’re going to have 100 by Sunday. I think we’re going to have far from 100. I am not sure, but I expect just about 20 or so, but even if it is only 20, that is an additional 20 vehicles to help the Transport Board move commuters, so it’s still an improvement,” Estwick said.
However, Nicholls made it clear that the show will go on with or without the privately-owned PSVs.
“We have to get enough vehicles to be able to transport the people of Barbados. So, I don’t expect any pushback from the minibus and ZR owners because at the end of the day we are asking them to come and work on the Transport Board route network. It is either they do or they don’t. At the end of the day if they don’t then the Government and Transport Board still need to have options for getting the travelling public to their various destinations,” he said.
The Transport Board chairman further noted: “If they don’t respond and the uptake is not at the acceptable level that we think is necessary to keep the whole system vibrant, then we have to go elsewhere. However, I don’t see it as a ZR versus ZM situation. At the end of the day they have to make the decision whether the arrangement is economically feasible for them.”
At her press conference to address the fallout in the days after the 75 per cent increase in bus fare, Prime Minister Mia Mottley promised short-term solutions to improve the service, in light of the fare hike. She said while the Transport Board only had a working fleet of between 50 to 70 buses, she hoped the inclusion of private PSVs would bolster that number.
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