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Minibus operators strike for better roads

Minibus operators strike for better roads

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The withdrawal of service yesterday, by 20 minibus operators who work the Redemption Sharpes route, seems to have achieved the desired response, with the authorities saying that repairs should begin today.

The operators told SEARCHLIGHT on Monday that they had withdrawn their services to bring attention to the need to have the roads in the area repaired.

According to the operators, who work in the community located on the outskirts of Kingstown, the roads have deteriorated so badly, they are now a hazard to themselves and their commuters.

“We ‘fraid to carry pregnant people,” one operator said, adding that the potholes are so deep that last week, a van going down Hollywood Hill came to a stop without mashing brakes, when it got stuck in a pothole.

The operators say the road condition greatly contributes to the premature deterioration of vehicle parts and makes it difficult to maintain a properly functioning vehicle.

“We forcing to keep up with fixing them,” one operator said, with another adding that they often have to borrow money to fix the vehicles when they break down.

“The road right now is a big, big problem, because right now, we have to slow down too often and we are using too much clutch and more petrol. The front end parts damaging very, very easily and so we have to do more maintenance,” said a driver.

One operator estimated that it may cost up to $2,000 every three weeks in parts, if one is to keep a van in good working condition.

They also explained that having to spend so much on parts makes affording insurance difficult.

“If we mashing up our front end parts, when the insurance time come around, is plenty of us would have to park up,”

According to the striking operators, since the beginning of the Government’s road rehabilitation programme, in which five roads are to be fixed in every constituency, no road in Redemption Sharpes has been repaired.

“They put in some speed bumps and that is it,” said a driver.

“They just cut out the road dem, throw stone in them and leave it so. When rain come, everything gone,” another added.

A private motorist told SEARCHLIGHT that if the strike by minibus operators is successful in motivating the authorities to fix the roads, it would also benefit her.

“Every minute I have to change parts for my vehicle,” she lamented.

Another private motorist said she too had complained about the bad state of the roads to the Roads, Building and General Services Authority (BRAGSA).

“BRAGSA not doing anything about it. I called them up to Friday. I leave a message; nothing. I not supporting them in striking, but we have to get the road fix,” the driver said.

One minibus driver said since April this year discussions were held with Minister of Transport and Works Julian Francis, who asked them not to strike, as “it would raise a red flag with all the other communities.”

According to the driver, the Minister asked to be given until the end of April.

“We send messages to him, but nothing still. I meet him personally; he just ‘yeah, yeah’ and he going ‘bout he business,” said the driver.

The minibus operators say they intend to strike until they get results.

“Sometimes you have to bear your grinds until you get what you want,” an operator said.

Francis, however, told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that work on “all the bad roads in Central Kingstown” is expected to begin today, Tuesday.

“Well, I’m expecting work to begin by tomorrow, because I believe they have switched contractors…”

He explained that a contractor had been assigned to the job, but for one reason or another, the work did not begin. Declining to name the contractor, the Minister said he had requested a report on the matter.(CB/KR)

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