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Regulating public transport services

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Editor: I would like to think that I’m echoing the views of the majority of simple-minded Vincentians when I say “enough of the minibus strikes!”

The National Omnibus Association (NOBA) itself was given a slap in the face when the very persons it seeks to represent vehemently defied its orders and kept their vans on the roads when commuters should have been deprived of their services.{{more}}

An examination of the sides of the coin in this contention will reveal that there are some relatively valid causes for complaints. It is a fact that oil prices are taking a toll on our energy budget. It is a fact that cabinet has tried to meet the requests of NOBA symbiotically as regards the commuters. It is a fact that our salaries never increase proportionately with increases in the vital commodities that are required for living and production.

There is a school of thought that NOBA is being unscrupulous and should get its house in order, by making all van drivers treat the travelling public with a measure of respect, before it makes demands for higher fares. While this is true, it is also an erroneously dogmatic view. NOBA has no power to make the many mange sheep in the herd of the minibus operators change their ways. What tools have been made available to NOBA to guarantee that this be accomplished? Absolutely none!

For humanitarian reasons, the past governments have allowed public transportation to be provided by private citizens. There is nothing wrong with that. However, public transportation is an essential service that Vincentians cannot do without. It is also a service that must meet premium safety and reliability standards, as human lives and our very presence at our various destinations are at stake. We don’t just rush to the airport and rush into an airplane as we wish. There is an almost tiring procedure we MUST satisfy before we can even dream of setting foot on that aircraft!

It is now time that our legislative enact laws to modify the status of NOBA to allow it to have the power everyone, including government, expects it to have. A van driver is not just running up and down, He is involved in providing a needed service where mistakes can be fatal.

The process of acquiring a minivan or bus to be used for public transportation MUST now involve necessary entering into a contract with NOBA, spelling out clearly that as a driver certain conditions are now mandatory. All such drivers should now have to display the official logo of NOBA, and wear the approved uniform; refrain from playing loud and annoying music during on duty times; stick to one’s designed routes; give fair treatment to the elderly, disabled and school children, and accept all approved fares.

Without such changes, NOBA will be nothing but a puppet and a scapegoat for the undesirables in the public transportation sector. The executive of NOBA is to be commended for sticking to its guns in the face of real futility.

Ashford Daniel

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