Owners of privately-run public service vehicles (PSVs) are warning that their ability to remain on the road depends on getting an increase in bus fares and duty-free concessions.
Chairman of the Alliance of Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Roy Raphael told Barbados TODAY that given the increases in taxes and the price of petrol, “we cannot really continue . . . to operate on a $2 bus fare”.
“In all fairness to us generally as business people, $2 cannot cut it,” he said, adding that an increase in the number of PSVs on the roads had also compounded their plight.
Raphael said his association had been desperately trying without success to meet with Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler to discuss a proposed hike in bus fares and duty-free concessions for imported parts, with the minister failing to acknowledge any of their many letters.
“I am calling on the minister to convene a meeting with us so that we can have this discussion going forward,” Raphael pleaded.
“There are some concessions which Government can give us that will help alleviate some of the issues that we are facing right now. But because we have to absorb the costs generally, that is why we are calling for an increase in bus fares.
“Barbados has the lowest bus fares in the Caribbean. If you go to countries in the Caribbean like St Lucia and Dominica, you pay in stages. In Barbados, you can pay $2 and go as far as St Lucy or St Philip,” the AOPT chairman pointed out.
Raphael said his association had even seen an increase in the number of tourists catching PSVs, which he attributed to the low bus fare.
“Even in conducting tours from point A to point B, [tourists are using public transport],” he said.
The spokesman for the PSV owners stressed that duty-free concessions on parts for their aging vehicles were a priority.
He explained that between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the PSVs were old, which drives up insurance costs.
“Insurance for one of our buses . . . can carry us to as much as $18,000 a year on a third-party vehicle. That doesn’t even carry that value as it relates to the bus itself. So we are saying, generally, it would be good if we can have duty-free concessions to allow us to run longer,” he said.
Raphael said the PSV owners were also still waiting on the Minister of Transport and Works to give the go-ahead for the Transport Implementation Project (TIP).
Under the TIP, 14 of the AOPT members would operate in state-owned Transport Board terminals to assist in moving passengers during peak hours.
“When it comes to 6 o’clock . . . 7 o’clock, a lot of our routes are shut down,” Raphael said, expressing the hope that through the TIP, the PSVs could be on the roads up to midnight.