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EDITORIAL: Public transport system needs revising


BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Public transport system needs revising

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Public transport is such a vital service that we ought to be concerned whenever major problems inimical to the optimum service to be provided rear their ugly heads.
Recent news about the service which suggests that commuters have had unusually long waiting times at the various termini should concern us, for in spite of the ubiquitous nature of the private motor car; many thousands of our people rely on public transport systems to move about this country.
They use the transport system for work, for social activities and just simply because they cannot otherwise travel around the country.
It therefore becomes a matter of the highest priority that the system should be operated in an efficient manner because such efficiency should lead to significant savings and benefits for the public.
A nationalized public transport system such as the Transport Board should be mandated to operate either as a social service or to make a predetermined small margin of profit. It simply cannot continue to exist without the clearest objectives as to its mission on this point.
Nor should it be seen more as an employment agency than as an important part of our socio-economic structure.
We cannot ignore the reality that if thousands of commuters arrive at work late; that many hours of what should be productive work time will be lost, and it makes little sense shouting that we must increase productivity if commuters are at the mercy of an unreliable public transport system.
And if unreliability in getting to work is frustrating; the problem of getting passengers back to their homes is likely to breed greater frustration if children are left unattended.
When the private bus services were nationalized in the 1950s emphasis was placed on the social aspects of the service. A very much higher percentage of our people relied on the omnibus out of sheer necessity. A much improved economy with the upward mobility of thousands of our people has mitigated, but not removed that need.
That is one of the reasons why the private transport system of ZR vans and minibuses has emerged and flourished. But that emergence has fuelled a number of the present problems which face the transport system which is now a hybrid public-private system, in which the Transport Board has “lost” the profitable short-run routes while it services the “loss-making” longer country routes and charges the same fare for the longer routes.
This factor alone is bound to create financial headaches for transport managers and policy makers who are keen to provide an efficient service operated with optimal efficiency.
We must recognize that we made some serious mistakes before in framing our national transport policy, and some of these errors may have originated in the politics of the situation.
But the current situation calls for clear-headed analysis to effect the most feasible decisions taking into account the volatile mix of factors, including politics, which will help to fashion an appropriate transport policy for this country. No longer can we just go along for the ride.

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