Try electric buses on a pilot basis before leaping head-first into large-scale purchases.
That is the message from interim chairman of the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO), Morris Lee, who warned if this was the way the Barbados Labour Party administration intended to go, it should also provide infrastructure at the terminals and van stands first.
He was commenting on the issues addressed by Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid during the Estimates Debate in the House of Assembly this week.
“I am very concerned that within the expenditure, Government has made no provision for upgrading the infrastructure of the Speightstown Bus Terminal, the Fairchild Street old market, the River Bus Terminal along with the Cheapside stand,” Lee said. “Those have significant revenue potential for Government.”
He envisioned a facility with solar panels and wind technology which would generate electricity to the national grid for the Barbados Light & Power, leading to a revenue share for both Government and the private sector vehicle operators.
“I want to plead with Government . . . . Do not go headlong in retrofitting 250 buses here or bringing in 180 buses unless you import two or three buses first and try them on the road before you sink the taxpayers in another 25 years of debt.”
Lee said when a team was brought in from the United States in 2013 the visitors were impressed with Barbados until they saw Horse Hill in St Joseph, Farley Hill in St Peter, Springvale Hill in St Andrew and Codrington Hill in St Michael. The team said the chassis which would fit the minibuses would not be able to handle those hills consistently.
“The only place the electric vehicle would be able to work is on the level road and therefore the Government should make sure they have selected the correct model that they can get the best out of,” Lee said.
“The technology is not that advanced that you can have an electric bus climbing a hill in the morning and in the evening with 100 schoolchildren with batteries. You are wasting time; so do the trial first. . . . If you are climbing hills, you may need to charge the bus five or six times a day,” Lee said The Transport Board has put out to tender the supply of roughly 180 electric buses which will be integrated into the current fleet. ( SAT)