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Senator: Tweak free bus fares system

A Government senator says she supports the policy of free bus fares, but it should be tweaked.

Senator Irene Sandiford–Garner, speaking this evening in the Senate on the Appropriation Bill 2014–2015, said though the policy should remain in place, it should be modified to make it more practical and workable for everyone.

She explained that as it stood, schoolchildren were abusing the system by using the service to hop from one bus stop to another.

”It is important for people to understand that as hard as it may seem, the entitlement era is coming to an end. You have a situation where children [are] catching a bus from the Shorey Village in St Andrew to go to school at St Andrew Primary; the bus rides are free so they catch the bus. The danger in that is that if you are going to work and you live in Shorey Village and you have to go to Bridgetown normally that bus ride takes about 45 minutes. But if the bus has to be stopping to let off all these school children at every other bus stop, that bus ride will take you an hour or more.

“Not only is it an abuse of the system but those young people don’t get any exercise,” she said.

“The fact is there are little areas that we need to address . . . because while we are helping some of the most vulnerable parents who cannot afford to pay bus fares for their children, we are also threatening the livelihood of those who are going to town to make a living because you can’t get to work late and keep a job,” Sandiford–Garner added.

She suggested that there should be a time frame within which school children could travel on the buses and have free access.

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