Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Change Transport Board directors


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AS A PROUD FORMER CHAIRMAN of the Transport Board, I consider its ongoing failure to provide Barbadian commuters with sufficient buses for them to comfortably go about their daily business as a national disgrace, embarrassment and discomfort.

That is the only assessment that can be honestly attached to the Transport Board whose minister, Michael Lashley, has publicly confessed that up until recently, the board was able to put 115 buses on the road, with the aim to increase the daily rolling stock to between 130 and 135.

But what the minister failed to point out is that with a daily peak requirement of 300 buses, the figures he is seemingly proudly seeking will still leave the agency grossly short of what is required to adequately satisfy the demands of those who have to depend on public transport for school, employment, business and social activities.

I further wish to point out that this deplorable state of affairs represents a case of history repeating itself, since when the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) became the Government in 1994, it inherited a situation in which the board was unable to put more than 90 units on the road daily.

The fact that the Transport Board is struggling to get at least 100 on the road daily means this precarious state amounts to a 22-year low in bus availability.

When the Government changed in January 2008, it would have found a viable fleet replacement programme drawn up by the board under my chairmanship and which, if maintained, would have avoided the present sorry spectacle of the board being able to have a mere 33 per cent or so of its required buses operational daily.

Instead, Lashley conceded that “the truth is that we are operating with buses, some of which were purchased in the 1990s. The last time the board bought buses was in 2006. This is 2016 and that is a major part of the problem”.

This mad scramble over public transport in which the board is presently engaged, was therefore utterly avoidable and could have saved commuters, especially schoolchildren, the elderly and workers, the stress and inconvenience to which they have been subjected for a prolonged period, through no fault of their own.

The full extent of the impact on national life would be much better appreciated if the loss in productivity, educational and social cohesion could be quantified in dollars and cents.

Fewer passengers

The Transport Board’s abject performance on bus availability has also been negatively affecting the board’s finances itself, with the 23.5 million passenger traffic recorded in the 2010/11 financial year falling by 6.1 million passengers to 17.4 million in the 2015/16 financial period, amounting to a crippling loss of badly needed revenue.

I am therefore repeating my earlier calls, based on my experience as board chairman from 2002 to 2008, for an immediately changed board of directors to one with badly needed financial, commercial and management skills and experience.

Without this, there can be no serious hope of major improvement in the bus availability, financial and other performance of the board, and by extension, the service it provides a public, many of whom have no other means of going about their daily undertakings.

Among the things such a reconstituted board would be required to provide and implement would be a comprehensive plan for the purchase of 30 units a year to ensure the reliability of daily bus requirements; local agents with dependable inventory to supply replacement parts for vehicles purchased abroad; and greatly improved cash flow to pay the large sums of money that remain outstanding to suppliers.

– IAN GOODING-EDGHILL, Barbados Labour Party candidate.


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