Reginald Allen | Give credit where it's due, Rev Roper
The tribute recently paid to former managing director of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), Colin Campbell, by former chairman of the bus company, the Reverend Garnett Roper, in the May 15, 2016 issue of The Sunday Gleaner has been noted by the company.
Rev Roper commended Mr Campbell for having led the effort to keep the JUTC afloat for the better part of the last three years, which was quite appropriate and reflective of Mr Campbell's contribution to the company.
Indeed, it is no easy feat to steer the ship of operation at the JUTC for all of three years, as the company, from its outset, has been consistently challenged, especially in terms of its financial base in comparison to its very broad, public mandate. So it cannot be contradicted that Mr Campbell deserves praise for his leadership of the company and, indeed, so, too, Rev Roper for his own contribution.
But there were aspects of the former chairman's tribute that strayed somewhat from the overall facts and realities of the JUTC's recent and immediate position, and this response is intended to put aspects of the tribute to Mr Campbell within the applicable context.
Rev Roper premised his position on some main pillars. These were listed as some particularly high revenue numbers that were achieved on occasions under Mr Campbell's stewardship; improved branding and profile of the company's overall service during the former CEO's tenure; the colour-coding of buses that are being privately operated alongside the JUTC on some routes within the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR); and success in taking forward the JUTC's drive to realise a cashless operation.
On the first pillar, Rev Roper was quite right, but he did not indicate that Mr Campbell's success resulted primarily from the fact that he was the lucky beneficiary of hundreds of new JUTC buses that were procured ahead of his tenure and, indeed, stemmed from the foresight of present Transport Minister Mike Henry and Finance Minister Audley Shaw, during their first tenures, respectively.
In essence, the new buses landed at the JUTC mostly during Mr Campbell's tenure at the helm of the company, and he used them to do what he was required to do, and managed to sometimes realise some high numbers in terms of ridership. So it was somewhat out of context to be solely praising Mr Campbell for having used the new buses to good effect, without crediting others who provided the very smooth running track, so to speak, which he got during his tenure.
Of the second pillar, that of significantly raising the branding and profile of the company under his watch, without question, Mr Campbell, a communicator by profession, certainly made his mark on the company. Full stop!
But Rev Roper also heavily credited Mr Campbell for the colour-coding initiative involving units that are privately owned and operated alongside the JUTC on a number of routes within the KMTR. Now if that round of praise was for having been at the helm of the company at the time when it got to the particular point of implementing an innovation that was conceptualised and developed by minds which were working long before Mr Campbell's arrival, it could be agreed that the former MD did play a major part in physically rolling out the carpet as part of a broad, preplanned and ongoing initiative.
In essence, again the former chairman did not give credit where it is also due - save for Mr Campbell - as it has for so long been a pet project of Minister Henry, who dreamt of, conceived and formulated the colour-coding system from beginning to the end, which is still far away, for not only the JUTC, but the entire local transport sector, before he left office as transport minister back in 2011.
It was that formulation which later afforded Mr Campbell the opportunity of being able to lead the implementation of one aspect of the overall colour-coding plans for the public passenger vehicle network. The records speak for themselves in that regard.
Additionally, Rev Roper also ventured into the area of a cashless fare system for the JUTC, to which he appeared to apportion most of the credit to the JUTC board that he chaired, and Mr Campbell as the MD then.
But the reality is that the JUTC's drive towards a cashless fare collection system is heading towards a decade in terms of the formulation and very technical implementation processes. So it was again out of full context that the former chairman seemed to have credited Mr Campbell for more than the implementation of his leg of the overall initiative, considering that at least two managing directors before him worked assiduously to advance the drive towards a cashless bus service.
In concluding, Rev Roper proclaimed Mr Campbell to have been the game-changer at the JUTC. Yes, that may be correct in some regard, but had Mr Campbell not benefited from the broad fleet upgrading during his tenure, he would have been far more challenged to deliver a game-changing performance in comparison to any of his predecessors, who were mostly scraping for decent bus runout numbers, as fleet injection was far less than during Mr Campbell's tenure.
But all in all, on behalf of the company, I extend gratitude to Mr Campbell for having carried the baton for a critical leg of the JUTC's development, which took both skill and purposeful application on his part.
Likewise, Rev Roper also made his mark on the company's transition from 2012 to earlier this year, for which the same sentiments are extended.