Even as taxi drivers and coach operators appear to question Government’s plan to bring them into the public transport system, minibus and route taxi owners have expressed uneasiness with the move.
Now a number of public service vehicle operators have told Barbados TODAY there are simply not enough commuters to go around.
It was not immediately clear whether this view was shared by the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) or the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT).
In announcing the move to Phase 3 of the pandemic recovery two weeks ago, Prime Minister Mia Mottley outlined plans to use coaches to boost the public transport service.
She said Minister of Transport Dr William Duguid would also meet with taxi operators to discuss how their services could be employed to ferry commuters.
The PM also revealed that 33 electric buses ordered by the Transport Board were expected to arrive between the end of June and early July.
Mottley said with public service vehicles and Transport Board buses only allowed to carry 60 per cent of their capacity, there was a need for additional vehicles.
But a PSV owner who spoke to Barbados TODAY predicted business would go from bad to worse if private coaches were employed.
The owner, who was not speaking on behalf of the PSV operators’ association, said owners, drivers and conductors were already struggling to earn a decent income with the current legislation.
He said: “Right now we can only carry about seven or eight passengers at any given time. When you do the maths you can see that is only about $25, so you can see how many full trips we have to make in order to get a decent amount of money.
“You also have to factor in that we have to put diesel in the vehicle and pay the driver and conductor.
“So when these additional coaches from Ross University come and you add in the ZMs, then what is going to be left for us? How will we make money?”
Another owner said even though there were restrictions in place commuters were still being serviced regularly.
He said that on routes such as Silver Sands, Speightstown and Silver Hill, even though they were limited to 60 per cent, commuters were having no problems.
The owner who spoke on condition of anonymity told Barbados TODAY: “I haven’t heard of any complaints from commuters about not being able to catch a van. Let us be honest; even before the pandemic people who lived on certain routes were complaining that they could not get a Transport Board bus. The majority of people are back out at work and we have been able to do a good job so far.”
He said he had no issue if the private coaches were used on routes that were not regularly serviced by PSVs. But on popular routes which he claimed were already overcrowded there was no need for additional transport, he said.
While agreeing with his colleagues, another owner said he was at a loss as to what would happen when everything “returned to normal”.
Noting that the tourism industry is not expected to be “up in a hurry”, he queried if some of the private coaches would be used permanently.
He said: “There are already too many PSVs on the road. I can’t imagine what would happen if the Prime Minister allows these other vehicles to operate as PSVs after COVID-19 has passed.
“I would hope that they would only be allowed to operate for a set period of time because it would be unfair to us PSV owners to allow other vehicles to come and move commuters and take money out of our mouths. We have families to feed like everyone else.” [email protected]
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