The Bees are being chided over 15 Transport Board buses used for Monday’s Heroes’ Day picnic on the same day that commuters complained of being left stranded by a bus shortage.
Opposition spokesman on transport, Sylvan Greenidge, today accused the Barbados Labour Party of putting the party’s agenda ahead of the country.
At a news conference convened in the Opposition offices of Parliament this morning, Greenidge told journalists: “The decision by the Transport Board to charter 15 buses from its already skeleton fleet was an extremely poor and callous management decision.
“And for the Government, who only weeks ago visited the bus terminals and heard the cries from frustrated commuters about the ridiculous hours they spend waiting for a bus, to allow the management of the Transport Board to send 15 buses to support their fun and frolic at the East Coast Road, leaving workers stranded in the bus terminal, is an act in party paramountcy.
“Simply put, the interest of the Barbados Labour Party has now been set above the interest of the country.”
Greenidge declared he was equally aghast by what he deemed an insensitive response to the cries of the stranded commuters by Minister of Transport Dr William Duguid, who was quoted as saying: “You cannot negate the opportunity for charters, as these bring in more profits for the Board than routes.”
Greenidge called on the Prime Minister to hold her Transport Minister to account for the statement.
The Opposition spokesman said of Duguid’s response: “What a loaded statement. Just imagine sitting in the bus terminal for hours waiting on a bus, having just completed a gruelling eight-hour shift. The following day you question your Minister about the reason for the long wait and you receive what the Minister reportedly said as your answer?
“How in 21st century Barbados a minister of the state, fully cognizant of the challenges currently facing the country, the massive retrenchment and unnecessary high taxes imposed on the backs of the working class – all part of a seven-year austerity programme, would make such an insensitive and reckless statement?”
The Opposition spokesman contended that Government was essentially rudderless on a path to ease the country’s urgent transport woes.
He took issue with the recent suggestions that Government is moving towards granting duty-free concessions to route taxi owners, who are willing to sign onto a seemingly unpopular Transport Augmentation Programme (TAP) which involves shifting private operators to under-served routes.
Declaring the move as discriminatory, Greenidge said it not augur well for private-public collaboration on transport.
“We are not certain if this is a matter agreed to by Cabinet or if this is another ad-hoc suggestion. We feel the suggestion is discriminatory and goes against the formulation of a strong transport system,” he said.
Following a series of meetings with Public Service Vehicle owners, Government failed to gain sufficient buy-in to TAP, which was supposed to yield 100 route taxis to supplement the 50-70 buses at the Transport Board. The Transport Authority has claimed that the success of the programme was being undermined by the PSV’s associations.
But Greenidge charged that “meeting some challenges in getting full buy-in from the private operators may have more to do with the high-handed attitude of the Transport Authority rather than the lack of co-operation from the private operators.
He added: “Until the Transport Authority is prepared to talk to rather than shout at the other players in the sector, then attempts at restarting the augmentation programme will continue to fail.”