Increased regulation for the public service vehicle (PSV) sector is one step closer to becoming reality, with the long-awaited Transport Authority Regulations now being certified by the office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.
In addition, Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources Santia Bradshaw announced on Friday, that solutions to a range of issues plaguing the sector will be implemented in the coming days while some matters will be further discussed and ironed out in short order.
This news followed a meeting between ministry officials and representatives from the various PSV bodies on Friday at the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) office.
Immediately following Friday’s meeting, Bradshaw told a media conference that she anticipated that she would have the regulations “very shortly” so she could present them to Parliament. She declared that the time for talk was over and it was time for action.
“What that means for the stakeholders is that the discussions regarding the roll-out of those regulations must now start to take place. They have been ongoing but we want now to be able to educate, not just the stakeholders in the room, but engage the wider public on the issues relating to those regulations,” she said during the joint press briefing with PSV representatives who welcomed the news.
Bradshaw stressed that the regulation should frontally address the vexing issue of indiscipline among the PSV operators on the island’s roads. She was not in a position to say what fines were likely, but insisted that the regulations were necessary.
“There have been lots of concerns about indiscipline amongst the operators and we want to be able to bring that to a halt or to curb the issues of indiscipline. The only way we are going to be able to do it is if both the ministry, Transport Authority and the stakeholders are able to work together with respect to the relevant messaging that needs to go out there,” said Bradshaw.
“Those regulations are definitely closer than they have been for a long time and I look forward to us being able to educate and re-educate the public as it relates to their own responsibilities, but also to demonstrate now that the onus is not only on the commuters, but also on the owners of those vehicles as well as the drivers,” she said.
She noted that greater oversight of the PSV sector meant an increase in the number of transport inspectors. There are currently only two at the Transport Authority.
“I think that is one of our challenges now in terms of our vigilance of what is happening on the roads. We have made the relevant case for additional inspectors to help both at the licensing authority and Transport Authority to be able to better regulate what is happening on the road. We have given those commitments to the sector,” she said.
Friday’s meeting with the PSV bodies came on the heels of ongoing calls especially from the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) for government to meet with the sector regularly to iron out lingering issues.
Some of those concerns include the lack of accommodation for taxi operators in the Fairchild Street and Heroes Square locations, especially when major events are being held in The City.
They have also complained about being reported by police officers whenever they pick up or let off individuals in the Fairchild Street area after 6 p.m.
Based on agreement with the Police Traffic Division, there will now be two marked spaces in the area of the Jordan’s Supermarket on Fairchild Street to allow for taxis to move from the Probyn Street area and pick up and drop off passengers with a time limit of up to 30 minutes.
This is expected to be implemented within the next two weeks.
Bradshaw noted that her ministry would have follow-up meetings to address the issue of parking in the location at night.
“We are going to do some walk-throughs to be able to identify additional spaces so that we can alleviate some of the challenges that they are facing,” she added.
She said officials will also be discussing with the Barbados Police Service allowing for a pick-up and drop off system for taxis to operate when there are major events taking place in Bridgetown.
Officials are also expected to address concerns relating to indiscriminate parking in spaces provided for taxi operators, cleanliness of The City, the introduction of the metering system, route rationalisation, traffic congestion in The City, among others.
“We will meet again in another three months and try to review a number of the issues that have been put on the table to try to find a resolution,” said Bradshaw, as she indicated that Government was prepared to offer some flexibility while holding sector operators to account.
PSV representatives said they were happy that the issue of indiscipline was being given more attention, as they also welcomed news that the increased regulation would soon be introduced.
Mark Haynes, director of communications and public affairs for the AOPT, said “The question of the regulation would make the whole system tidy and we look forward to having a tidier situation as we move forward.”
He said the PSV operators were prepared to work with Government and other stakeholders to ensure that the bad reputation of the sector is changed, while giving the assurance that PSV owners and operators would play their part.
He noted that the AOPT and other PSV representative bodies would be ramping up their public relations campaign to ensure that industry operators are fully aware what is required of them.
“We look forward to having all these things rolled out and we are prepared to do what is required of us by law . . . but we want this to be done correctly and expeditiously,” he said.
Kenneth Best, Chairman of the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) said he believed the introduction of a cashless system would also play a major role in cleaning up the sector. (MM)