Minister of Transport and Works, John Boyce, believes that management at the Transport Board should continue to pursue innovative ways to reduce the current deficit of $70 million since Government has no plans to send home employees.
Boyce offered this suggestion today while speaking on a resolution which sought a Government guarantee of a $30 million loan for the cash-strapped Transport Board from the National Insurance Board.
The minister told parliament that the loan will be for 20 years beginning August 1 and have an interest rate of 7.75 per cent per annum.
While acknowledging the challenges facing the Transport Board, Boyce noted that the board did not charge a viable fare. He disclosed that the fare of $200 brought the revenue of the Transport Board in the region of $54 million annually.
Boyce further disclosed that the Transport Board currently employed 900 workers and has a rolling stock of 290 buses. The minsiter pointed out that the revenue collected by the Transport Board covered wages and salaries and some small expenses that cropped up from time to time. He noted that this year total expenditure for the agency was expected to be $122 million, leaving a deficit in the region of $68 million to $70 million.
Boyce said: “This is something which I think is instructive. We have reached the point in the Transport Board where we have said enough is enough, we need to take measures to make this operation more viable. I am sure the minister of finance is supportive, the Prime Minister understands the kind of realities we face.
“But we on this side have taken a decision too that this is not the time for us to be sending staff home; this is not the time to cripple an operation. We have got to fight through this battle in innovative ways. This is the charge which has been given to me as Minister of Transport and Works and this is the charge which I have transferred to the board and the management… We have to create innovate solutions to the situation which we face.”
Boyce identified charters as an area where the Transport Board generated a reasonable amount of revenue. He disclosed that cruse liners used the Transport Board buses to transport visitors from the airport to the seaport.
“I get the impression that the board’s rates are very attractive. Maybe we have to do a two-prong attack. We probably have to look at the rates and we have to look at ways of getting equipment to really satisfy that market,” Boyce said.
He saw the park and ride arrangement as a viable business opportunity which could bring in revenue to the board. He suggested that it was a question of being able to build in the Barbadian commuter psyche a confidence which would see them use the facility in a meaningful way.
Boyce said: “I believe if I could get access to a properly organised, scheduled, reliable, comfortable, on time bus service that can take me from Oistins to the Pine, I would consider it. I therefore believe that even for a slightly higher price this is business we can look at.”
He suggested that the board could look at the fusion of the charters, the park and ride with the school bus service where the board is guaranteed $12 million from the Ministry of Education.
Boyce said: “This is the clearest opportunity we have to break out into a new business entity for public transport which can be on its own profitable.” (NC)