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Minibus Association to ‘park’ buses Monday

Minibus Association to ‘park’ buses Monday

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Mini-bus operators are threatening strike action once again. {{more}}

Anthony Bacchus, President of the National Omni Bus Association (NOBA), speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, August 24, said that members have agreed to strike on Monday, August 29, to express their dissatisfaction with the recently approved increase in bus fares.

According to Bacchus, members have taken the decision to withdraw their services until certain issues including rate increases for those areas omitted, particularly in the northern sections of the country and issues regarding the rates for school children, were resolved.

He said that an emergency meeting of the association was held on August 10, during which members rejected the approved increases for certain areas, including those north of the dry river on the Windward side and Chateaubelair on the Leeward. Operators are demanding an increase in fares to these destinations, NOBA’s president told members of the press.

This after the rate hikes had been approved and were gazetted on August 8, 2011.

Bacchus said that a letter expressing their disapproval was sent to the Transport Minister, Senator Julian Francis, following a meeting of zone representatives on August 17, during which a decision was made that if an acceptable response was not forthcoming by August 19 that members would withdraw their services.

Presley Daniel, mini-bus operator and representative for the North Windward zone, explained that it was highly unreasonable for the fare from Georgetown to Kingstown to be equivalent to that of Owia to Kingstown.

“In other words, if one took a bus from Owia to Kingstown they would be traveling 51 kilometres; if they took a bus from Georgetown to Kingstown they would be traveling 35km, but they pay the same $6,” he contended.

The proposed rates, according to Daniel, which had been presented to Francis included $9.00 from Fancy to Kingstown; $8.00 from Owia and Point; $7.00 from Sandy Bay and $6.00 from Orange Hill to Kingstown.

He also indicated that they are now seeking some additional rates, including the introduction of a fare of $5 from Georgetown to Fancy; $4 Owia to Georgetown; $3 Sandy Bay to Georgetown and $2 from Magum, Overland to Georgetown and $1.50 from Orange Hill to Georgetown.

Bacchus indicated that the issue was the same for operators in the North Leeward area where the fare to Chateaubelair remained at $6 although they had proposed a new fare of $7.

These rates according to both men were presented to Francis, but were never approved.

The other area of concern was what members of NOBA had understood as the government wanting them to accept a reduction in the fares for school children.

The approved rates indicate that school children between 4 and 16 pay 50 per cent when in school uniform.

But Bacchus explained that they could not accept this as the previous scheme as was the initial law under the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic laws as of June, 1982 allowed school children between 4 and 11 to pay 50 percent, with those over 11 and out of school uniform paying 75 percent.

“Francis said that what was presently gazette was the law not what has been proposed and if we go with those rates we wouldn’t make any money,” he explained.

Bacchus indicated that while it was good for bus operators to charge full rates for school children out of uniform, it was a matter of economic cost to the parents of these children who will now have the burden of paying exorbitant van fares when traveling with more than one child.

When contacted, however, Francis told SEARCHLIGHT that the piece of legislation that Bacchus was referring to had in fact been amended when the new rates were approved this year.

“We replaced it so it no longer stands in law instead it is what has been approved by Cabinet,” Francis told SEARCHLIGHT.

The Minister of Transport and Works said that he was not prepared to give a reaction to the impending strike, but explained that the increases proposed by NOBA in some instances were substantial.

“In all fairness, we couldn’t ask the traveling public to pay those fares,” he said.

“We went through each of the (proposed) fares and we agreed on what fares would go to Cabinet – we went through all of them individually.”

Francis said that he based his judgment on what would be fair rate increases after staging a series of consultations with members of the traveling public and, according to the Minister, many did not support an increase until the mini-bus operators addressed a number of the traveling public’s concerns.

However, Bacchus said that the organization that he represented was prepared to work with the public in addressing their concerns.

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