Transport operators demand fare increase - seek 100 per cent raise amid steep operating costs driven by road construction
The Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS) yesterday demanded a fare increase for transport operators, who say they are being heavily inconvenienced by roadwork in sections of the Corporate Area.
President of TODSS, Egeton Newman, made the call at a press conference in Kingston yesterday, where he outlined a series of challenges facing operators who he said are operating in a "crisis".
"Whether the minister (Robert Montague) has the responsibility to grant a fare increase or not, or whether the timing of our request is a problem, one thing must be noted is that the sector needs a fare increase to cushion the steep operating costs. Enough is enough!" said Newman.
"I know the subject is one that the State is afraid of at this time, but it must be addressed. Nothing less than a 100 per cent increase," he continued, adding that sector operators are fed up and prepared to take a stance.
Newman's call followed reports by some parents last week that their children - travelling on routes around Portia Simpson Miller Square in St Andrew - were being asked to fork out more for bus fare as conductors bemoan the rush-hour detours.
He said such reports have come to his ears, and although the practice is illegal, some operators, in fact, face increased operational costs to detour from their designated routes because of road construction.
They should be compensated for their hassle, he explained.
Newman claimed, also, that operators are being targeted by unscrupulous cops and wrecker companies that punish them when they detour from their designated routes, even though it is at the instruction of the workmen.
"With road construction and improvement work taking place all over the KMTR (Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region), we are calling on our minister to speak on behalf of the sector and speak publicly. We are calling on the minister to freeze the wrecking of public passenger vehicles for the next 12 months," he demanded, adding that only approved wrecker companies should be allowed to tow vehicles found to be operating in breach of their contracts.
He said operators are being asked to fork out $30,000 for wrecker fees whenever their vehicles are seized by the police, which is more than three times the amount for similar service over the same distance.
"Despite the odds, despite the criticism, the disrespect and the continued bashing of indiscipline, we continue to serve like the good old brick battery," he continued, noting that private operators serve more than 90 per cent of commuters in the Corporate Area.
The president conceded, however, that some operators contribute to the negative stigma that plagues them.
Against that background, he said the TODDSS will undertake several initiatives, such as a "soft-skills customer service workshop", to help private operators offer better customer service.