New garbage trucks are to arrive by year-end but the country’s first electric buses won’t be on the road until the middle of 2020, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn has revealed.
“As it relates to the Transport Board, I know they are in the process of acquiring about 50 buses.
“The tendering arrangement is being completed at the moment, and I anticipate that sometime in the middle of next year we should be able to see those buses coming onto the roads of Barbados,” He told journalists.
Minister of Transport William Duguid would speak further on the matter “at the appropriate time”, he said.
Straughn added: “We are relooking everything we do with respect to business in Barbados and that includes logistics, and transportation is a critical part of that.
“At the end of the day if you can’t move people, if you can’t move goods or move information and move garbage it means that the country would be in gridlock.”
The Minister in the Ministry of Finance was responding to journalists’ questions in a joint media briefing with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the Central Bank on the IMF’s second review of Barbados’ austerity programme.
Although the island needs roughly 180 buses to service all routes and schools, the Transport Board’s fleet dipped as low as 30 last year, from around 80, according to officials.
Since bus fare was raised from $2 to $3.50 earlier this year, there have been mounting demands for an improved public transport system.
In addition to a preventative maintenance programme embarked on by the Transport Board, Government had promised at the start of this year to put between 80 and 120 electric buses on the road in a phased approach over 12 to 18 months, with the first 20 by the end of this year.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle reported that as the Transport Board awaited the electric buses, it was putting more buses in
service, pointing out that the fleet had gone from about 30 last year to around 50 recently.
She told reporters: “We know that more buses are required and more reform to public transport are required.
“But I would like to say that even while we are waiting for those buses the Transport Board is certainly not sitting idly by, they are doing all they can in terms of regular maintenance to be able to make sure that the current fleet is operational as far as possible.”
On garbage collection, Straughn promised that the problem would be corrected soon.
“The rebuilding of fleet of the [Sanitation Services Authority] remains a priority.
“The SSA is currently spending quite a bit of money on repairing the existing fleet whilst we acquire additional trucks,” he said.
Recalling that the SSA had earlier acquired seven garbage trucks, Straughn said an additional 12 trucks were also ordered “and are in the process of being concluded and should be here before the end of the year”.
He blamed the delay on the arrival of the garbage trucks on trade tensions between the US and China.
“We found ourselves in a situation for example, where chassis are manufactured in China and shipped to the United States, and we know there is a little issue there.
“So we have been impacted in a
sense by the global environment and therefore the protracted nature with respect to being able to get the trucks here that is the reality of the circumstances that we are living in,” the Minister explained.
The SSA fleet increased to 24 earlier this year with the acquisition of the seven trucks. But officials had indicated that the island was in need of 34 trucks to adequately service 150 routes.
Last year, as part of its austerity programme, Government introduced a Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) levy of $1.50 per day for residents, and the equivalent of 50 per cent of water bills for commercial entities, a portion of which would go towards funding the SSA.
Straughn argued the GSC was critical to the rebuilding of the garbage collection agency’s fleet, promising that it would be rebuilt but “it will take some time to do so”.
Adding that Environment Minister Trevor Prescod would provide an update “at the appropriate time”, Straughn assured that steps were being taken to replace and better manage the SSA’s fleet to improve the quality of service.
“I think that is something that is certainly going into 2020 you will see, an improvement with respect to [garbage collection],” said Straughn.