From bad to worse.
This best sums up the situation for thousands of commuters using the Transport Board service from the Fairchild Street bus terminal in Bridgetown.
The deteriorating conditions continued less than 12 hours after Minister of Transport Michael Lashley acknowledged last Sunday night on CBC TV that there were problems at the state-owned bus company following the recent rationalisation of its routes.
On Monday evening, commuters complained about severe delays with some of them resorting to social media to highlight bus problems which they said had gone from bad to worse.
One Facebook posting from R.N.S. Mayers said: “No 10 (p.m.) bus, then at 11:15 p.m., one passenger to the front of the line announced that all the 11 buses scheduled, who have not yet gotten a bus will have to wait for the last bus for the night. No Bayfield, no Sam Lord’s castle, no St Patrick’s, and most unsatisfactory, no one from the institution stating anything about the delays.”
A NATION news team visited Fairchild Street on Tuesday evening to get a first-hand account of what some of the passengers had been experiencing. On recognising the NATION team, a number commuters asked why we were not there on Monday night with some indicating that they had a horrid experience.
Many were vocal but declined to give their names. However, Sedrick Gamble, of St Joseph, willingly spoke to the situation, with a number of fellow passengers nodding in agreement.
“Things bad with this bus service and it cannot be allowed to continue,”?he said. “They’re people who left home from as early as 5 this morning and up this time can’t get back home.” It was after 8 p.m. when Gamble made his comments.
He laid blame for the problems at the Transport Board on poor management and weak supervision, adding it was unreasonable for people to wait two hours and longer for a bus.
“Despite constant promises from the Government, there is clearly no resolution to the many problems severely impacting on the Transport Board, while poor people are suffering.”
The St Joseph resident, speaking loudly but articulately, said it was noteworthy that since the Democratic Labour Party administration assumed office in 2008, it had not purchased any new units for the national bus service. He maintained that an efficient service could not be provided in such circumstances.
“None of the 30 elected members of the House of Assembly . . . understand the problems, the headaches the passengers are encountering,” Gamble said.
During his appearance on The People’s Business on CBC TV, Lashley said the Transport Board was seeking 100 new buses to supplement its fleet, noting that “we have started the rationalisation programme and there have been challenges”.
It was that word “challenges” which had a number of commuters, from those waiting to get to Bayfield, Chalky Mount, Yorkshire, Workman’s, Bathsheba and other areas, annoyed.
They did not want to hear the word. One passenger said she could no longer speak to the NATION team because we “failed” to denounce the operations at the Board.
A female taking the Bayfield bus, as she made her way through the queue, said the minister should not only talk about “challenges” but needed to come to the terminal to see first-hand what commuters were encountering.
David Small, who was waiting on the Yorkshire, Christ Church bus, said the situation was bad both on mornings for people looking to get to work and then on evenings when they were returning home. “The bus was scheduled to come at 7:45 p.m. but we’ve been told they’re experiencing difficulties,” he said.
He, like other passengers, said the situation became unbearable at night given that the minibuses which complemented the Transport Board were usually off the route by 8 o’clock.
A passenger awaiting a bus to Workman’s, St George, said he felt the Board needed to revisit its scheduling. He warned that the problem could become bigger when school resumes early next month.
While Tuesday night’s wait for buses was not as bad as the previous evening, it was still nerve-racking as some commuters had to show patience and hold on for as long as three hours in some instances.
For those not familiar with the Fairchild Street bus stand, it can be a depressing place. A vagrant with a nauseating smell came through and proceeded to search the garbage bins. Some passengers warned against standing near the open “windows” with a gold chain since it could be snatched.
A man brought some bounce to the evening with his “Remy hair and handbag”, leaving passengers either laughing or shaking their heads as he left the terminal.
Meantime, less than 200 metres away from the terminal, at least two ZR vans which service the Wanstead route operating from Cheapside provided their passengers with a night-time extra by dropping off and collecting commuters on Bridge Street. Time was of the utmost importance for them.