The decision not to have students return to the classroom for the upcoming school term is a major spoke in the wheel of privately-owned public service vehicle (PSV) sector operators.
Roy Raphael, Chairman of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT), told Barbados TODAY that currently on some routes the PSV operators were struggling to even get passengers to reach the 75 per cent capacity limit and they were eagerly looking forward to carrying the school children to help fill some of the void.
He said while most students would travel on the Transport Board buses because they were free, school children accounted for between 10-20 per cent ridership for some PSV operators.
However, with Government’s announcement on Tuesday that all students will enter the new school year on September 20 online, Raphael said this was sure to have an impact on an already struggling transportation sector that relies on students throughout the year to help bolster earnings.
“The online classes will have a significant impact on our earnings. We already suffered from the fact that we have had to reduced capacity to 75 per cent . . . We heavily depend on the school children in order for us to see the numbers of passengers.
Raphael said he believed Government may need to come to the rescue of the sector, given that the situation had been compounded by fuel increases.
“I believe that Government may have to look at ways of giving us a kind of concession or subsidy because when you really look at it, our public service vehicles are operating with a very low capacity.
“We already have the TAP bus programme with over 100 of them, we have 800 private operators and with the Transport Board at 135, so I am saying the government will have to sit with us and see how best we can look at some kind of subsidy going forward,” said Raphael.
One taxi operator told Barbados TODAY he agreed government should consider providing some assistance to the transportation sector, pointing out that even without school children, the sector was struggling.
“It is a real struggle. Government gave some support and I don’t want to sound like I am complaining, but the truth is that the situation is tough man. It is tough. Any assistance from Government would be good at this time,” he said.
The man, who did not want to be named, said he would normally shuttle some children from a Christ Church address to schools in St Michael.
“I was looking forward to that because some days I get to collect the children on evenings. So I do morning and evening some days. That would help me and I know other people who do that but now with this online teaching we can’t do that.
“I don’t know, but some assistance would be good. I hear Government say it got all this money so maybe we can get some more help ‘cause this is months now we struggling.
People not taking taxi like before and tourists now coming back but not like before either,” he said.