Government’s decision to shift northern private minibus and route taxi operators from their roadside base to the Speightstown Bus Terminal will meet no opposition from at least one of the major PSV associations, as long as the newcomers are guaranteed fair treatment.
President of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Roy Raphael has called for neutral monitoring at the terminal, to ensure that the privately-owned PSVs will not be playing second fiddle to the state-owned Transport Board buses.
He told Barbados TODAY that his organization needed to be assured that the Transport Board buses would not be given preferential treatment when it comes to loading passengers but rather all users must be equal within the queuing system.
He said: “We want to state clearly that in order for this amalgamation of the private and public transport entities to work, there must be neutral management at the terminal that must be set up to ensure safety of the passengers and workers.
“In addition, the terminal management must ensure equity for all users of the terminal.
“If there is a committee already in place then we want to make sure that we [AOPT] have a seat on that committee to ensure equity and that everything goes well.”
The AOPT has not yet put forward their demand to Government but will be doing so shortly, Raphael revealed. But he noted that their demand is not without substantiation because, he claimed, the Transport Board as a statutory body is not subjected to the same rigours as their private-sector counterparts.
“Too often we have situations where we get complaints from PSV operators where they are reported by police officers while Transport Board buses get a free pass for the same offence.”
Last week, Transport Authority chairman Ian Estwick declared the move was for the safety of operators as well as the travelling public.
Estwick said then: “I haven’t had any feedback yet, but it will be naïve of me to think they will be responding positively, because it has been my experience in my first year [as chairman] that this is one sector that is extremely resistant to change.
“So I don’t expect that it will be a bed of roses for everybody, but it is something that has to happen. It is much too dangerous out there and I have seen schoolchildren climbing through bus windows, not only to the eastern side but to the western side, which means they are exposing themselves to traffic and we can’t sit back as an authority and let something like that happen because we wouldn’t be able to justify our existence.”
But the AOPT head made it clear in his interview with Barbados TODAY that his organization is in no way opposed to the concept and in fact was on the verge of making the suggestion.
Raphael told Barbados TODAY: “The association is willing to support such a move because we also visited the terminal earlier in the year and we thought that it made perfect sense to marry the two sectors and give persons the opportunity to have more choices.
“We are clearly of the view that privately-owned public transportation sector and the Transport Board should work as a collective because right now there is simply too much competition.”