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Time for government-owned public transport system?

Time for government-owned public transport system?

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EDITOR: The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is shying away from instituting a Government-owned transport system and will continue to be held to ransom by the National Omni Bus Association (NOBA).

The withdrawal of service by our only public transport service NOBA, some weeks ago and now again this week is clear evidence that a government-owned public transport system is absolutely necessary.{{more}}

If you take a quick look at what has transpired between government negotiators and NOBA representatives it is clear that government is being put in a difficult position. In a nutshell, NOBA tabled a proposal for an increase in bus fares, which government refused, but offered a fuel subsidy instead. NOBA accepted the idea of the subsidy but thought that Government was not going far enough and tabled a new offer for a higher subsidy. Government then responded by improving on NOBA’s latest offer and threw in other concessions as well. One would have thought that the next announcement would be that NOBA had accepted the offer and any bus strike averted, since government had given them a sweeter deal than what they had proposed.

The whole idea of a compromise fell down when NOBA changed its mind on the subsidy and downright refused to accept government’s offer. They didn’t even give the subsidy a try. It seems as though NOBA is holding out one hand for the fuel subsidy but still grabbing for the fare increase with the other.

NOBA seems to be unsure of what they want and what they are trying to achieve or are just playing games, and this is confusing to the traveling public and the country at large. If you have been monitoring the talk show programmes and one in particular Wednesday morning when the host read out the NOBA’s proposal for fare increase, it would seem as though NOBA is quickly losing its public support. And the fact that some operators were still plying their routes after the planned withholding of service, must be less than encouraging to them.

What is most distressing also is that commuters have been treated in the worst way by those same bus operators who are now asking them to pay more for their poor service. Daily, commuters are herded into these public transport vehicles like cattle with less than pleasant smelling, sleeveless clad conductors hovering over their noses. Coupled with this, the commuters have to undergo the daily trauma of traveling in these reckless high-speed vehicles with vulgar lyrics and music blasting in their ears. There seems to be no control at all or any course for redress and the owners seem not to care.

There have been endless complaints about the high speeds, the offensive conductors and lyrics, loud music and less than comfortable seating, buses refusing to carry school children because of the lower fare, operators refusing to carry passengers to their destinations because they are in a hurry to turn around to beat the competition, operators putting off people because they complain of the loud offensive music, and drivers breaking every law in the traffic act and the list goes on. There seems to be neither rules nor regulations that govern these unruly operators. And where is NOBA ‘s voice in all of this? All we can hear is the sound of silence! NOBA officials seem to speak and operate as a group only when it is to their benefit.

Only a well organized and properly regulated transport system will quell this substandard mode of operation we see every day. In an organized bus system, these vehicles will be expected to operate within the law and with proper supervision. No longer will bus drivers be seen holding the steering wheel with one hand and a beer in the other, they will be expected to stop at designated bus stops and not around dangerous corners. Conductors will be expected to practice proper hygiene, dress appropriately and carry only the number of passengers allowed for the vehicle and the standard of music must be acceptable to all his passengers.

If NOBA adopts these it will be well on the way to being accepted as a serious voice in this country. Think on these things.

Jude Knight

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