One group representing privately-owned public service vehicle (PSV) operators in Barbados is pleading with Government to come to their rescue quickly so they can make the transition from fossil fuel vehicles to renewable sources.
Chairman of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Roy Raphael said now was the time for Government to look at starting a pilot project with PSV operators with electric vehicles.
At the same time, Raphael told Barbados TODAY Government should grant PSV operators concessions so they could purchase new vehicles.
His comments come a day after Government announced the long-awaited arrival of 33 new electric buses, which should go on the road soon.
Raphael said the PSV group presented an idea to Government before, asking for the introduction of electric buses in a pilot project to see how they would work in the PSV sector, acknowledging that they would need to phase out their current vehicles by 2030 as the country moves to 100 per cent renewable forms of energy.
“The Transport Board buses move every hour but we move every ten minutes. So the best way we can really do an assessment on these electric vehicles really would have to be through the PSV industry, and we are prepared to work with the Inter-American Development Bank and the Ministry of Energy to see if we can put one of those vehicles out there,” said Raphael.
“We would like to start a pilot project on electric vehicles. Some time ago I promised the public that we would be the first to roll out electric vehicles. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough funding to purchase one of those, which might be close to $800,000 to put into our fleet, but we are willing to work in a pilot project at least as a start because we believe by 2030 Government is going to phase out all fossil fuel vehicles and I will say about 90 per cent of our vehicles are diesel driven.
“So between now and 2025 some mechanism will have to be put in place to phase out these vehicles either by way of ethanol, bio diesel or electric or other means of non-fossil fuel vehicles,” he explained.
Insisting that the only way they would be able phase out their old diesel vehicles was with assistance from Government, Raphael said, “At this stage, although the public might see newer vehicles on the road, with the absence of duty-free concessions we are forced basically to buy the second-hand vehicles from the ZM operators to put into our fleet.
“So we want to make another public appeal to Government to sit with the industry to see how we can reduce the aging vehicle by giving us duty-free concessions. Again I am making this public appeal to the Government,” he said.
Arguing that the newest ZR on the road was perhaps a 1998 vehicle, Raphael said it was unfair that taxi operators were able to access duty-free vehicles every five years and now anyone who entered the Transport Augmentation Programme (TAP) also had access to those concessions, but ZR operators were still excluded.
“We would like to see newer vehicles. Right now besides Cuba, Barbados has the oldest vehicles on the road in the Caribbean. It is an embarrassment for us and the tourists who come here.
“We believe the time has come for Government to sit with us and start some level of negotiations as it relates to duty-free concessions for our vehicles. We are prepared to do so. We have already presented a paper to them and we are appealing to them to let us talk,” insisted Raphael.
The PSV sector leader is also challenging Government on its decision to allow operators in its TAP initiative to operate without having their vehicles in the colour codes, which is provided for by law.
He explained that under the Road Traffic Regulations 1984 public service vehicles were required to be colour-coded with minibuses being yellow with blue stripes and ZRs are white with a magenta stripe.
He claimed that the TAP vehicles were not only breaking the law not being in those colours, but they also “confusing people”.
Raphael is proposing that Government instead issue the TAP operators with the over 170 BM permits that he said were not being used by the state-run Transport Board due to those buses being off the road.
“Since those permits are applied to the transport board they have their own rules and regulations, why not give those persons who are a part of the TAP the BM licence plate rather than ZR? In that case they can be in any colour.” he said.
“It is something they can consider because right now they are breaking the law and it is of concern to the association seeing these fellows in non-ZR colours and they are plying the [ZR] routes,” said Raphael.
To date just over 150 permits have been approved for the TAP. And those drivers are allowed to use a BM licence plate.
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