With the state-owned Transport Board now operating at 60 per cent load capacity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Government is exploring alternatives to transport thousands of Barbadians as more businesses open up next Monday, May 18.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley hinted at incorporating privately run coaches and taxis to augment the current bus capacity during a press briefing at the conclusion of a full meeting of the Social Partnership at Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, yesterday.
Cognizant of the challenges posed by the public health requirements for the sector, the Prime Minister assured the country that one of the first things on her return to office will be to work with Minister of Transport Works and Maintenance, William Duguid to “get this right”.
Ms. Mottley revealed that the 33 electric buses ordered by the Transport Board will arrive in the island late June or early July, but in the interim, Government would be actively pursuing options to augment the available transportation options.
“Government is of the view that we are going to have to augment the bus capacity both with working with the privately owned buses not only the traditional B and ZM, but we may have to look at some of the coaches as well to include into the Transport Board’s fleet through rental, and working with the owners of those vehicles, … starting with the Ross University Transport Co-op.
“In addition, I have asked the Minister of Transport William Duguid to facilitate discussions with taxi drivers and others because we need to be able to have affordable and accessible transport as far as possible,” the Prime Minister underlined.
Ms. Mottey noted that there were some Barbadians who may not want to be exposed to travelling on the bus during the pandemic, but may be prepared to travel to their destination by taxi.”
If this option is to work, the Prime Minister said a transparent system for charging must be put in place.
“We need to have a transparent system for charging and the technology can allow us to do that now in terms of the distance travelled with apps that we use, but at the same time, we also need to ensure that in addition to the absence of a meter, and using the technology for the setting of distance and the rates for fares per kilometre, that we also use it for availability.”
The Prime Minister added: “A person does not have to move from St. Lucy to Spooner’s Hill to pick up someone when there is a taxi that is in Black Rock that can do the job closer. So, how best do we leverage technology with the existing taxi drivers and owners in order to be able to augment affordable and reliable access to public transport in Barbados whether it is through buses, ZRs, minibuses, coaches or taxis?
Ms. Mottley gave the assurance that the necessary equipment would be sourced to ensure that all areas of mass movement and transport were properly sanitised to protect the public from COVID-19.