Potholes, strict Covid protocols hurting Sharpes vanmen
by Katherine Renton
All minibus operators working the Redemption Sharpes route joined the country-wide withdrawal of service this week, as frustrations reached a peak with Covid-19 protocols but also, in their case, with the consistently poor state of the roads.
Entering the area of Redemption Sharpes from Kingstown Park and continuing onwards, the road is marked in areas by potholes, some of the damage on the paved surface extending for a significant distance.
The minibus operators from the community on the outskirts of Kingstown have tried to bring attention to this issue numerous times, and have withdrawn service on at least two occasions more recently, in 2018 and 2017.
This week, of the approximately 12 minivans that ply the route, reports are that 100 per cent of them parked up their vehicles and refused to pick up passengers beginning Monday, March 8.
These 12 are among the approximately 100 buses that President of the Vincentian Transport Association (VINTAS), Royron Adams told SEARCHLIGHT withdrew their services from Monday (see Midweek Week edition of SEARCHLIGHT of Tuesday, March 9).
Collectively the service providers’ overriding concern is rooted in the Covid-19 protocols issued on February 1, which stipulate that minivans must carry half of the passengers they are licensed to carry. They all wish for the number of passengers 18-seater vans are allowed to carry to be increased to 12.
On Tuesday, March 9, on day two of the service withdrawal, some of the concerned transport service providers in Redemption Sharpes made their arguments for the increase in passengers, but also the problem they face with the condition of the roads.
Thirty-five-year-old driver/conductor, Randy Dublin, of Hollywood, Redemption Sharpes, working on the van ‘Flight 314’, commented about a particularly bad area of the road, joking that the Pastor lives above, and the burial ground is below.
“…Cause every time… front end don’t self last, is every two weeks we hah go and change rubbers and bushing inside the van. Tyres lasting up here a month now because the road eating up we tyre,” he said.
“…It’s horrible man,” Dublin expressed, noting that they would like some assistance from the Roads, Buildings and General Services Authority (BRAGSA).
Even if the roads were just “patched up”, they will “give thanks to that still”, he disclosed.
“Since 2001 they haven’t look at us here,” Dublin noted, to “….come and do nothing on the road.”
Calling on the Ministry of Transport, the driver/conductor requested, “if you could come and give us a little bit of assistance please. Just send somebody to fix the road, and everything go be fine.”
Daniel Lyttle, the 52-year-old driver of ‘Stand Still’, said that with the road in the condition it is in “it is terrible for us.”
“…Really need some assistance on the road, the road definitely need to do some fixing because that’s one of our biggest problems,” the driver commented.
He also commented on the frequency with which they have to change parts in the vehicle.
Twenty-five-year-old driver, Eskil Samuel standing near to his minivan ‘Juvenile’, noted that he had to take off the bumper because it was seriously damaged.
“We have way worse roads than Largo Height and if you check it out Largo Height roads are fixed before us, so what is the satisfaction we going get, nothing?” he asked.
Equally to the condition of the road, the drivers are frustrated with the restriction for carrying passengers.
Dublin commented that they would be grateful for the $500 subsidy that the Government is offering to 18-seaters for a two-month period; but if they don’t get this, he wouldn’t mind, rather what is important to them is that the number of passengers be increased to 12.
He is also doubtful in terms of the speediness with which they will be able to receive such a subsidy in hand.
VINTAS, as part of the overall protest action, is also taking issue with the $500 subsidy, and the $600 for those buses with a greater seating capacity than 18. This is because buses must work, the Government has stipulated, a minimum of four days a week in order to receive this.
For Dublin, “…Once you get the 12 at hand we greatly appreciate that, we could work we route on that, pay we driver, pay we conductor, and hustle with the 12 and still look for maintain we van,” he said.
A point that VINTAS has made is that the mass gathering protocols as it relates to churches was changed on February 27, to allow churches to operate with one third of their capacity, different to the 10 that was being allowed for indoor gatherings previously.
Dublin also questioned what the reason was for raising attendance at churches but not reviewing it for the minivans.
“…You got churches right now not wearing no mask at all in Sharpes and them is the same passengers coming go catch the van, so if anything to happen wah you think going go happen?” he said.