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Uphill ride

Wade Gibbons

Uphill ride

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THE BARBADOS TRANSPORT BOARD is facing a massive$48 million shortfall. But management at the state subsidiary is undertaking drastic steps to stem the financial haemorrhaging.
Last week financial controller Felicia Sue issued a notice to staffers bringing them abreast of the dire position of the board. She indicated the Transport Board had expenditure of $94 million in 2010, but had only earned $46 million in revenue.
“In these economic times, this deficit must decline,” the financial controller stressed.
Among the several recommendations made was for staffers to take better care of the board’s property, improve their work attendance and punctuality, reduce sick leave, and for drivers to cover the “complete route as advertised”.
Sue also implored staffers to improve bus maintenance and availability; increase service departures; reduce wastage; use cleaning supplies wisely; encourage the public to use buses and charter services; and improve customer service, especially the manner in which they responded to queries from commuters.
“It will take Team Transport Board to ensure the collective success and future of the board,” she urged.
Yesterday Minister of Transport and Works John Boyce told the SUNDAY SUN that any systems rationalisation would in no way diminish the services of the Transport Board to the travelling public. He said the process was simply one of encouraging greater efficiencies.
Boyce also stressed that despite the financial shortfall, free bus service for children going to school would not be affected.
The free bus fare system for schoolchildren was introduced by late Prime Minister David Thompson in 2008 at an estimated cost of $11 million.
There have been public suggestions that privatisation was one method by which the Government could turn around the perennial financial headaches of the Transport Board.
Last year while addressing members of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry at Hilton Barbados, former Minister of Economic Affairs and then Opposition Leader Mia Mottley suggested Government open up the ownership of the Transport Board.
“Why should Government invest another $100 million in debt to purchase equipment [buses] and [cover] operational expenses over the next decade when it can contract out its routes to private operators for a fixed fee monthly in a highly regulated environment?” she queried.
Her suggestion was that Government allow credit unions, individual small investors, pension funds, medium and large corporate entities, as well as workers to share in the ownership of a number of state-owned enterprises such as the Transport Board.