By Emmanuel Joseph
It’s going to cost the privately-owned Public Service Vehicle (PSV) sector close to $50 million to fully transition its 800-fleet from fossil fuel to renewable energy power.
This was the indication from the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT), the organisation representing the largest number of PSVs in the island.
AOPT Chairman Roy Raphael welcomed the proposal in Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s budget delivered on Tuesday which makes some $3 million available to the PSV sector to borrow to buy hybrid, natural gas or electric-powered vehicles as part of Government’s drive to transition the country to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
While Raphael is happy that the Government was able to help the sector make a “little” start, he made it clear that it’s going to take substantially more to fully make the change-over to “green energy”.
“We welcome that…that Government was able to make $3 million available to the PSV industry so that we can have access to electric vehicles, hybrid and natural gas. We will be embarking on a project with natural gas in the coming weeks. We are hoping that the persons will be able to benefit from the $3 million. Three million dollars for us is a start, but it will cost us in the region of $50 million to transition all of our vehicles from fossil fuel to renewable energy,” Raphael told Barbados TODAY.
“Three million dollars is a start, but we will have to embark on a drive to identify other sources of funding to allow more persons to be onboard. I am thinking that a renewable committee should be set up from our organisation along with other stakeholders to ensure that the right persons get these loans,” Raphael suggested.
“We don’t want a situation where a fellow buys a vehicle and he doesn’t quite understand the purpose of the transition. What we want to do is encourage more of our operators to buy vehicles that will be able to assist with the disabled community,” he stated.
“A lot of our buses are not disabled-friendly. We are of the view that when a person steps out of their homes, they should be able to catch a vehicle [that is disabled-friendly],” Raphael pointed out.
He observed that in Barbados, the only Public Service Vehicle equipped to offer that service, is the state-owned Transport Board buses.
Raphael is appealing to PSV stakeholders to consider this segment of the travelling public when looking to import vehicles since it is very costly for members of that community to use public transport to “get to and from” places such as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and polyclinics.
However, there are some aspects of the Prime Minister’s budget that have caused the sector some disappointment.
“We have not heard about the removal of the $1 000 transfer tax that is hurting the industry. Basically, the transfer tax had moved from $1 to $1 000. That is really hurting the industry really badly. Every time we have to change our vehicles we have to pay $1,000. We have asked for a change, but we have not seen it,” the AOPT head complained.
“Also, we are a little disappointed that provision was not made for all PSVs to have duty-free concessions. This is about five to seven years we have been speaking to this issue. We were very much looking forward to having duty-free concessions, particularly when we transition our vehicles to cater to the disabled community,” Raphael said.
With regard to the cap on fuel announced by the Prime Minister, the PSV spokesman contended that the move was not going to benefit the sector significantly judging from the experience with the previous cap.
“When they did that the last time, we didn’t see any significant benefit from it. It is nothing to shout about…Yes, we welcome it, but when we look across the board and see our vehicles and the expenses we have incurred within the last three years…the maintenance problems from the very bad roads in some country districts, it is very costly,” Raphael lamented.
In fact, he argued that there are some roads on which the PSVs should never travel. He identified them as Indian Ground, St Peter, District D in St Thomas and Martin’s Bay, St John.