Monday, April 15, 2024

Year in Review: Much ado in local transport sector


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The year 2022 began with the dark cloud of the COVID-19 virus hovering over the island; 262 people had succumbed to the virus and there was a curfew lockdown in place.

Public Service Vehicles (PSVs) were operating at a reduced capacity and mask wearing was mandatory for commuters. To add to their frustration, gas and diesel were retailing at $3.99 and $3.34 per litre, respectively, which meant a drop in profit margin.

That frustration was shared by residents of Pot House in St John who were asked to again be patient as work was about to restart to fix the deplorable roads in their area.

However, there was relief elsewhere on the island when the blocked road behind Eden Lodge Nursery to Lodge Terrace was cleared after 30 years.

In February, Transport Authority Director Ruth Holder announced PSVs driving the northern routes on the island would have to use the Speightstown Bus Terminal or face punishment.

Communications and Marketing Officer of Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Mark Haynes said it was insulting that the association was not being consulted in national discussion over the return of face-to-face classes and insisted they should be at the table.

Haynes also appealed to the public to help the family of 56 year old Victor Walton, who was killed while driving his northern route.

Additionally, 25 people were injured in an accident involving a minibus and a car at the junction of Windsor, Christ Church.

In March, The Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Monitoring Unit, in collaboration with the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI), hosted sensitisation workshops aimed at teaching PSV operators how to reduce transmission of the illness.

The AOPT stated they needed help running their Command Centre in Black Rock, St Michael which cost $1 000 per day to operate.

Barbados Road Safety Association President Sharmane Bowen was elated at the news that breathalyser testing would start the followingt month, with motorists being asked to comply with the officers over the testing.

April began with gas prices rising by 14 cents to $4.13 per litre and diesel by 14 cents to $3.45 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine meant economies globally were forced to absorb that cost.

The roll out of breathalyser testing was delayed as Attorney General Dale Marshall said more was needed to be done before it could happen islandwide. In reply, Bowen said she was tired of excuses and why Government was dragging its feet over the issue.

Electric vehicles at Courtesy Garage sold faster than any other vehicle after the new Government policy which saw a decrease in taxes on electric vehicles.

May proved to be fatal for commuters as one man died and another injured following a collision between a car and a lorry along Superlative Road, St George. There was another road fatality involving a male motorcyclist at Baker Woods, St Peter.

At the halfway point of the year, baby formula was in short supply locally as was the public’s patience after Minister of Transport and Works Santia Bradshaw asked for more time as the Government moved to improve the road infrastructure. Gas prices increased again to $4.41 per litre and diesel had a one cent increase to $4.04 per litre.

 In July, the AOPT told their drivers to stick to bus routes and push against deviant behaviour amidst public scrutiny. There was also a further increase in gas prices which went up by 31 cents to $4.72 per litre whereas diesel went up by to $4.08 per litre.

August was a big move for the transportation sector. On the back of Deputy Prime Minister Bradshaw’s announcing initiatives aimed at modernising the Transport Board will be coming soon, it was announced there would be ten more electric buses arriving in Barbados within the next six months.

PSV drivers were on board with the potential implementation of a cashless system but pleaded for talks over “astronomical” gas prices. At this time gas cost $4.83 per litre, an increase of 11 cents. Diesel went up by 20 cents to $4.28. They also were unhappy with the lack of communication prior to Crop Over events which impacted revenue brought in.

In September, chairman of the AOPT Roy Raphael requested that the Transport Board conduct a “much needed” feasibility study in order to better understand and service a number of under-served routes on the island.

The Ministry of Transport and Works responded in October with a MOU agreement between the Government and the stakeholders in the transportation sector which will see more regulations implemented.

Public testing of the Transport Board’s automated cashless pay system was done on October 19. Bradshaw, Parliamentary Secretary  for the (MTWW) Dr Romel Springer and Chairman of the Transport Board Renee Butcher got a firsthand look.

Deputy Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw watches as a commuter uses the new cashless system. (Picture courtesy (BGIS)

In November, the Government agreed to a meeting with the AOPT over compensation for lost revenue when the drivers were displaced from Heroes Square.

PSV drivers in the Transport Augmentation Programme complained about late payments, saying that they had not gotten their concessionary fees since September.

But not even PSVs were safe in Barbados after a man was shot during the day in one in the area of the traffic lights at the Eagle Hall junction.

During the season of holiday cheer, the Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2022 was debated in the House of Assembly. Bradshaw said stringent rules needed to be put in place to make owners accountable for the behaviour of the drivers.

The year ended with the AOPT issuing a word of warning to passengers, stating that they should take responsibility for their own health despite the association welcoming the removal of the mask mandate.

Just before the year ended, Bradshaw announced that effective January 7, taxi drivers would be getting a fare increase for the first time in 15 years. (JC)


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