Wednesday, April 17, 2024

EDITORIAL: Transport Board needs structural change


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It would be hard to identify another statutory corporation in this country that has consistently taken a beating like the Transport Board. It has been, for decades, a bull’s eye for everyone – from commuter to politician – and quite often with ample justification.

Criticism notwithstanding though, for all its faults, shortcomings and massive drain on the public purse, the Transport Board, through the hard work of those who have held management posts as well as the rank and file employees, has provided a level of service that allowed our business sectors to thrive, our workers to be able to move around with relative ease, and our social and community life to flourish.

While we have complained of long waiting periods in the terminals and at bus stops, buses that leak when it rains, some drivers who should not even be allowed to drive cattle, schedules that seem not to conform with the needs of commuters and so much more, the Transport Board has contributed immensely to our national development.

Quite often those who manage the board’s affairs have to endure an unfair beating from a demanding Barbadian taxpayer, when in fact that anger should be directed at the policymakers and politicians who saddle them, and us, with the weight of their bad decisions.

Anyone in Barbados with a brain, a calculator and fingers to operate it knows that the $2 bus fare being paid for the longest time is not close to the true economic cost of providing the ride, but still we ask the Transport Board to fulfil its mandate while quarrelling about whether it should receive a subsidy from central government.

Without doubt the Transport Board can be considerably more efficient, and with that improved efficiency the $2 fare might be reasonable, but given all that it faces each day, is it reasonable to expect anything other than the results we now get?

We raise these issues because school resumes today after the long summer holiday and the Board has already served notice that it will be challenged to satisfy demands. It has also stated it will give priority to the movement of children – and that it could be at the expense of other commuters. In a situation where resources are limited, we cannot fault the Board for taking this stance.

Some hard decisions need to be made about the provision of commuter services in Barbados and the longer we delay making them, the longer it will continue to cost us nationally. And we are not talking about sending home 200 workers as was done earlier this year since that does not go to the heart of the problem.

If we replaced every manager and every driver at the Board today, tomorrow it would still face the same challenges. There are systemic and structural issues that have to be addressed.

So while we will, when necessary, criticise the management for specific actions we consider to be lacking in careful thought, we cannot ignore the fact that within our region the Transport Board has stood out over the years in a manner that has made us the envy of our neighbours.

Now consider where we would be if we had done so many things the right way.


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