Shunned

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The numbers might not yet be at required levels, but Government’s Transportation Augmentation Programme will still hit the ground running in the next three days.

Chairman of the Transport Authority Ian Estwick has claimed sabotage by some operators and admitted that with the programme set to start on Sunday, the goal of contracting 100 private public service vehicles (PSVs) by that time was unlikely.

In fact, he told Barbados TODAY he estimated that around 20 PSVs would have signed onto the programme.

Ian Estwick
Ian Estwick

Contracted PSVs will provide public transportation services along the routes assigned by the Transport Authority at the request of the Transport Board.

However, Estwick said at a time when the Transport Board was not in a position to adequately service the island’s commuters, the show had to go on.

“Only a small number of PSVs have signed up so far…I don’t think that we’re going to hit the ground running and that we’re going to have 100 by Sunday. I think we’re going to have far from 100.

“I am not sure, but I expect just about 20 or so, but even if it is only 20, that is an additional 20 vehicles to help the Transport Board move commuters, so it’s still an improvement,” Estwick said.

“It is something that we believe has to be done because we have to have people getting to work, children getting to school and pensioners getting about their business. We will hope that the routed PSVs come on board, but if they don’t then there are alternatives.”

Prime Minister Mia Mottley recently announced that the services of private PSVs would be contracted to work with the Transport Board’s brand as part of the programme.

She said while the Transport Board only had a working fleet of between 50 to 70 buses, she hoped the inclusion of private PSVs would bolster that number.

As a result, a meeting was held at the Barbados Workers’ Union Solidarity House headquarters last Thursday, where the contracts being offered to PSV operators were revealed.

The chairman revealed that two subsequent meetings had been held on Sunday and on Wednesday in an effort to address the issues raised by the PSV owners.

“We had a small meeting on Easter Sunday and from that we determined that another meeting had to be held so that the operational side of the programme and not just the contract and obligations, could be discussed.

“We wanted to give them the opportunity to deal with the Transport Board to have these things ironed out and a meeting was held yesterday for that purpose,” Estwick said.

He said during that second meeting additional persons signed up to the programme.

However, Estwick accused some PSV operators of trying to sabotage Government’s efforts to facilitate the integration.

“There are some owners from the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) who are bitterly opposed to this whole integration and trying to get the support for the Transport Board,” he claimed.

“Actually I had to speak to them in the meeting and I told them that if they continue to disrupt the meeting I’d have to ask them to leave. They said openly that they are not in favour of it and they have no interest in it, but kept criticizing whenever somebody made a point.”

But a member of APTO who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity dismissed those accusations.

He said APTO was not opposed to the programme but was merely trying to negotiate proper conditions for its members.
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