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NOBA sets up steering committee for a way forward

NOBA sets up steering committee for a way forward

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A steering committee has been set up to decide the way forward for what minibus drivers has described as a dormant National Omnibus Association (NOBA).{{more}}

Gas prices, prices of vehicles parts, short distance fares, conditions at the Windward Bus Terminal, among other things were the topics up for discussion as the National Omnibus Association (NOBA) held a meeting on Sunday, February 27, at the Arnos Vale Netball Court.

President of NOBA for the past seven years, Herman Priddie, stated that he was stepping down as President and that he wanted others to step up and take up the leadership.

Other members of his executive also declared they were stepping down.

Priddie, when he spoke, said he knows first-hand the kind of struggles that minibus operators face on a daily basis. He noted that each time the issue of fare increases comes up for discussion, the issue of service is always used as a scapegoat.

“Once such an issue is brought up, then you start to hear that van men shouldn’t be asking for increase until they start to perform efficiently,” he said.

Priddie mentioned that 12 national consultations were held some years ago from Georgetown to Chateaubelair with the main purpose of hearing the public’s view on the minibus operations in the country.

Priddie said, on completion of the consultations, a committee was set up to review the public recommendations and those were forwarded to the Government. Up until today, Priddie said, nothing has been done.

“While the onus is on you as bus drivers to give good service, I think the Government has to share part of the blame,” he opined.

Former president of NOBA, Junior Bacchus, said Government does not seem to recognise the importance of minibus operators to the country, especially in relation to the economy. He noted that many businesses suffer because transportation is seldom available for persons at certain times of day.

“Some of these vans come off the road around 7p.m., while some businesses operate until 10 and there is no transportation available to take persons to their destination,” Bacchus said.

He said the problems can be attributed to the fact that the transportation sector is not organised in a way to maximize the benefits of the economy.

Organiser of the meeting, Anthony Bacchus, who operates the minibus “Code Red” said they have been “spinning top in mud” because van drivers have been operating on their own for a long time now.

He said it is tough on drivers who have to pay for expensive vehicle parts and buy gasoline/diesel everyday and some of the fares are as low as one dollar for a short distance drop. “The van (is) supposed to take care of itself. It’s like we are working for the Government and the gas stations,” he stated.

Another former president of NOBA, Burton Williams, told the gathering that omnibus owners and drivers need to start operating as an economic enterprise and that nobody is ever in the van business without the view of earning money. He said that persons can hardly afford to buy vehicle parts because their van does not make enough money.

“I know van owners who have to pull the money from their own pockets to buy things for their van, which should not be,” Willams said.

One van driver who operates on the Leeward end, said the only way that minibus operators can reap benefits is if they come together holistically.

“We just can’t be doing things anyhow, we need some kinda unity,” he said.

He also suggested that before a person decides he want to become a van driver, he must first join NOBA.

“Today, you have all kinda man picking up saying they want to drive van and then causing all kind of problems. We need to have them join NOBA and then penalise them if they breach any of the rules,” he said.

Some of the van drivers were also of the view that they are being constantly harassed by police officers and that the Windward Bus terminal is in a deplorable condition.

Another meeting is expected to be held this coming Sunday to discuss matters arising out of last Sunday’s meeting and to set a date for the election of a new executive.(KW)

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