One of the groups representing route taxis and minibuses is offering to jumpstart the Government’s plans for all-electric public transport, as it backs new bus routes under a plan to merge public and private operators.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, the president of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport, Roy Raphael, declared emphatically that contrary to what had been suggested in media reports, AOPT is fully committed to the success of the private-public transport initiative known as the Transport Augmentation Programme (TAP).
“The association fully supports TAP because it was our brainchild and between now and the end of the year, we proposed to put 22 electric buses into the TAP project.
“Only last week we had discussions with a company from China that came to Barbados and we started serious discussions with them. I don’t want to name the company, but talks are ongoing with the company to provide these buses.”
Raphael said his association’s commitment to TAP has gone to point that the association has already begun to educate operators about electric buses.
“We have also begun training a new set of drivers for TAP and especially on how to properly use these electric buses. We are hoping that very soon we will have the first of these electric buses.
“As far as funding goes, we will like to see individuals purchasing these buses. We also want to encourage owner driven rather than hiring a driver because owners would be more responsible.
“Electric buses are new, and they are different and Barbados is one of the first countries in the Caribbean to introduce electric buses into the public transport sector.
“We are aware that some of the owners have concerns about switching to electric buses and what they can do, so that is why the education programme is so important.”
Raphael’s indication of support comes a month after the chairman of the Transport Authority, Ian Estwick, accused operators of sabotaging TAP’s rollout. The programme, which was initially expected to contract 100 private public service vehicles on under-served routes, was likely to come up short.
At the time he told Barbados TODAY 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 [at the start]. 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.”
The Transport Board then turned to maxi taxis to supplement its low bus complement. The state-owned transport service has said its next fleet upgrade will be all electric vehicles, as the Government races to meet a 2030 target date to meet Barbados’ energy needs with all-renewable sources.