“We are bringing in some big buses to test the system,” Transport Minister, Robeson Benn said, when he engaged the business community and other residents in Region 3 (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara).
Benn, together with Local Government and Regional Development Minister, Ganga Persaud were invited to listen to views, concerns and solutions during the exchange on issues affecting the region.
Minister Benn said he has been looking at the traffic situation and the many problems of persons stranded on roadways en route to work and during the evenings on their way home.
He said there are several options being looked at by the relevant agencies, among them the reintroducing of public transport.
The minister made it clear, however, that Government cannot just bring back the system and implement it without conducting the appropriate studies and surveys.
He said the key areas that have to be looked at are the viability of returning to it and the cost to commuters, as well as the maintenance of the mode to be used; hence buses will conduct the test runs.
Benn said it also has to do with the level of investments that will be made available, pointing out that there is a lot of fear, mostly on the part of those operating private transport countrywide.
Still, there is the likelihood that the venture will be managed as a joint initiative of the Government and the Private Sector.
Benn said, like in previous times, the lawlessness demonstrated by touts who harass commuters must be curbed.
He said reintroducing that mode of transport will also be a way through which the Government can cushion the costs to commuters using privately operated vehicles.
In 2011, the Government had introduced a temporary service, where big buses were put on the roads to convey passengers after private operators withdrew theirs, in protest of the Government’s non-support of a hike in minibus fares.
Despite the assistance given by Government to the shuttle service, which was free of cost, many people refused to join the provided buses, in solidarity with the minibus operators.
Others claimed that, if they declined to use the private operators, when the situation returned to normal, they would have been abandoned on the roads by the very operators.
Another solution being looked at to deal with the problem of stranded commuters, especially between Regions 3 and 4 (Demerara/Mahaica) in the mornings and afternoons, is the bringing back of the ferry service from stellings at Stabroek in Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara.
Presently, many persons are forced to transit from the West Demerara stelling, in the mornings, to get to work in Georgetown because traffic is, usually, moving very slowly across the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB).
The situation is no different in the afternoon, only that the very commuters who were left on West Demerara are often in the same position on the eastern side of the river.