EDITORIAL: Positive PSV move by minister
We believe congratulations are in order for Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley for the decision to fully integrate private sector operators into the public transport system.
This is a move that had been talked about for several years, with the indication that once the proposed new Fairchild Street Terminal comes on stream, commuters will be able to access either a Transport Board bus, minibus or route taxi under one roof.
But that terminal is some distance away, while the need for integration is quite immediate. It is therefore quite refreshing to see that the minister has been able to introduce a healthy dose of pragmatism to the process – just what the country needs at this time.
It is a sensible decision, particularly since the alternative is expensive and if attempted, would be against the backdrop of a cash-challenged Treasury and a literally broke Transport Board. So, instead of rushing headlong into buying buses it does not have money for, the Government is moving to utilise the capacity of minibus and ZR operators to augment a challenged publicly owned fleet.
We are reasonably sure that commuters, particularly those in rural Barbados who have been complaining for some time about the inadequate service offered by the board, will welcome this move.
It is hardly likely that Barbadians will be too bothered about whether the bus is blue or yellow once the operators are businesslike and efficient, perform in a manner that suggests they have the safety and interest of their passengers at heart, and the vehicle is clean, comfortable and on the face of it appears roadworthy.
What this decision also does is place the ball squarely in the court of the private sector operators, who have been calling for integration for a long time, but who have not always behaved in a manner that demanded the respect of the society generally. Now, however, they can choose to do the right thing or drop the ball.
We also wish to suggest to Minister Lashley that only good can come from giving fair and reasonable consideration to the recommendation of president of the Association of Public Transport Operators, Morris Lee, that some of the unused units in the board’s fleet be made available to the private sector to enhance service to Barbadians.
If the board has buses it can’t put on the road, for whatever reason, and private operators are willing to bear the cost of getting them back in shape as well as operating them, while paying the board to do this, it has to be worth examining by authorities.
Both Government and private sector spokesmen have been saying over and over again that the recession should spur innovation and out-of-the-box thinking as we seek to claw our way back to the top. Mr Lee and his colleagues appear willing to do this and it is therefore incumbent on Government to give them every fair chance.
So, Minister Lashley, extend your pragmatic approach. You may discover that you are starting a trend that inspires Barbadians well beyond the transport sector.