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It is clear from some of the opinions being expressed in the public domain on a range of local issues that oftentimes they are not grounded in a clear understanding of and connection to certain realities.
This leads to an oversimplication of the issue and the ventilation of simplistic remedies to issues. One of those issues is the chaos that is local public transport system.
In the midst of suggestions of privatisation of the beleaguered Transport Board, especially as a means of addressing its fiscal problems, we perhaps should be mindful of certain things.
Public transport management and an in-depth discussion of such are, arguably, the province of those who are better trained and experienced in such. However, certain things would be obvious even to the lay person.
Firstly, private concessions are driven by profit-making and not social amenity provision as a government at whatever level it is. Therefore, it means that one of the challenges that is often thrown up is how a consistent, reliable and predictable bus service can be provided throughout the day and across the routes, even at off-peak hours.
This means that the private concessionaires would operate their vehicles by whatever means would maximise their revenue. We see this on a daily basis with the local route taxis and private minibuses.
In an environment of poor regulation of routes and limited enforcement of traffic laws, this can give rise to the kind of ongoing problems that one sees daily in the services provided by the private concessionaires.
An example, one is often told by those operators plying the Bridgetown to Fairy Valley route that they are not going to that destination as mandated by their permit, and they suggest one take the service provided by the Transport Board. One would suppose that going so far is not in their best financial interest and hence their reluctance in taking passengers the full distance.
In addition, there are routes plied by private concessionaires where the operators go off the road in the night time, which means one has to rely on the available Government-owned transport. So any move towards privatising the system should be based on some model where an adequate reliable service is provided to satisfy the requirements of each and every route even in off-peak hours.
Furthermore, it must be orderly and safe and include operators who are far more professional than many of those who populate the sector currently.
A discussion must be had about the allocation of routes, the condition of the various terminuses in a 21st century Barbados and the remuneration of the operators in the system in a way that would eliminate or at least minimise the “hustling” that lends to the unruly behaviour exhibited in the privately run public transport system.
– RANDY BATSON