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Republic of China donates ten 29-seater school buses to SVG

Republic of China donates ten 29-seater school buses to SVG

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When school reopens on Monday, September 4, there should be no reason for any student to complain about difficulty accessing public transportation.

This, with the Government’s acquisition of school buses which will be leased to persons for the transportation of schoolchildren.

Yesterday, during a ceremony at the decommissioned ET Joshua Airport, ten 29-seater Toyota Coaster buses were handed over to the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) by the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC). The donation by Taiwan is valued at US$300,000.

Minister of Transport, Works, Urban Development and Local Government Julian Francis told the gathering that the selection process to choose the 10 persons who will be allowed to lease the buses will begin today, Tuesday, August 29.

Francis, who described the donation by the ROC as yet another wonderful gift to SVG, said the persons who lease the buses will have to adhere to certain rules, or stand the chance of having the lease terminated before the five-year lease agreement expires.

Francis said the idea to acquire and lease the buses came because it is felt that schoolchildren are short-changed by minivan operators. The Minister said the Government has committed to paying the first year’s licence and comprehensive insurance for the buses and although the Government has put out that money up front, it will be deducted over a period of one to five years.

After the five-year lease is up, the lessee will have an option to negotiate with the Government to purchase the bus and there will be a discussion as to its value.

Francis encouraged the operators to take care of the buses, as if the Government thinks that a bus is not being properly cared for, it will be taken away before the lease date is up.

The Minister said the lease fee has already been worked out, but that is being kept private for the time being, while the 47 applications are sorted and the 10 lessees chosen, a process that is expected to be completed by this Thursday.

Francis said special monitors/observers will be appointed to make sure the buses are being taken care of and that they carry out their mandate to transport schoolchildren during school hours.

In support of the programme, the Government will provide three free general services of the vehicles per year, at which time an inspection will be made. The lessee, who has to be over 30 years old, is, however, expected to pay for the annual vehicle licence.

“It is expected we will have responsible persons driving these buses,” said Francis, who revealed that rules include: no amplified sound system, no added designs, no heavy tint (light tint allowed) and the lessee must make the bus available to Government to carry schoolchildren on trips five times a year.

The number of passengers allowed on the air-conditioned buses will be determined by the licensing authority.

Francis appealed to students not to deface the buses, which are insured under a fleet insurance, with each bus valued at EC$220,000. He said also the conductor must be over the age of 21, but under 50 and the conductor’s responsibility includes ensuring that the bus is taken care of externally and internally.

The routes that the buses will service will soon be released and are based on an assessment that was carried out.

Francis asked the public to assist by keeping an eye on the buses and added that this is not the first gift of buses given to SVG by the ROC, as five new buses were gifted by the ROC in 2002.

“We have taken reasonably good care of those and I assure you that despite the fact that these are used buses, we will take equal good care, as we have to put a little extra care in them,” said Francis.

Commenting, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, ROC, Ambassador Der-Li Liu said the donation is the result of a visit to the ROC by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves in October 2016.

Ambassador Liu said that the Prime Minister met with ROC President Tsai Ing-wen and mentioned the need for safe and secure transportation for school-children.

He said that the President immediately asked that the buses be procured and the ROC is honoured to hand them over.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said the entire donation was secured at a cost of $2.2 million, when insurance, freight, duty and preparation are included. He said while the Government of SVG has made a monetary contribution, he is attributing the entire project to the generosity of the ROC.

He said the new buses are welcomed because although the Government gives concessions to minibuses to transport school-children on routes that are not lucrative, schoolchildren are still left behind.

“…On afternoons, I would drive by and I see dozens of schoolchildren and it pains me,” said Gonsalves, who added that while some students do not want to be picked up right after school, those who do must be assisted with getting home as soon as possible. He said he has spoken to bus operators on numerous occasions about the problem, but they are not adhering.

Addressing the operators, the Prime Minister said should there be any breach of the terms of lease, the Government can give immediate notice and retake possession of the vehicles.(LC)

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