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Call for urgent transport meeting

The Alliance of Owners of Public Service Vehicles (AOPT) is running out of patience after repeated failed attempts to meet with the Transport Authority to discuss a number of pressing issues.

So frustrated is the organization that a meeting of the various partners is being planned as early as next week to determine its next course of action.

AOPT Chairman Roy Raphael told Barbados TODAY the owners have been trying without success since last year to sit with the Authority to explore solutions to matters that affect their trade.

“Let me quickly say that for a number of months we have been writing the Transport Authority asking for a meeting to have some issues that we have on the table ironed out. We have not heard from them.

“If the Transport Authority is not meeting with us then we will meet at the joint committee level which comprises the National Union Public Workers, AOTP and the Association of Private Transport Operators and we will take whatever decision is necessary. But we can’t have an organization, a regulatory body not meeting with us. It does not make any sense. We have to meet,” he insisted.

The AOPT head declined to say what action it was likely to take, but stressed that PSV operators and owners were serious about improving their services to the public.

He was however adamant that problems in the north of the island, including routes, the positioning of bus stops and the vexing matter of tax concessions could no longer be ignored.

Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler made it clear during this week’s debate on the 2016/2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue that he would only consider concessions for the sector if PSV operators performed well under the Transport Authority Service Integration (TASI) pilot project implemented last year.

“We are going to see how serious you are about working with the Government in terms of public transport and I am saying to them don’t keep noise about duty free concessions . . . Demonstrate to us that you are serious in working with the transport board to help transport people across the country. Reduce our cost of public transport and then you can come and talk to me about duty free concessions,” Sinckler said at the time.

Raphael welcomed the minister’s promise but said there was a strong case for PSV operators to receive favourable consideration even before they could prove themselves in the TASI programme.

“The Government is proposing to bring in new Transport Board buses, but yet you are asking us to run our buses from five in the morning until 12 at night. We have vehicles that are more than 30 years and that cannot continue to be on the road. So whereas we welcome the discussion with the minister and we will work with the initiative, I believe both parties have to sit down with each other and iron out these issues even before we can prove ourselves,” the AOPT boss said.

When pressed for his views on the success of the TASI project so far Raphael declined to comment, preferring to focus on support for the programme from owners and operators.

“I wouldn’t want to speak to the pilot project at this stage. There are a few issues that need to ironed out so that a meeting has to be forthcoming so we can discuss them,” he said. (SD)

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