Thu | Oct 17, 2019

Commuters feel pinch as taxi drivers strike

Published:Tuesday | September 3, 2019 | 12:30 AMGareth Davis Sr/Gleaner Writer
Stranded commuters await the arrival of public transport in Buff Bay, Portland, yesterday as taxi and minibus operators withdrew their service.
Stranded commuters await the arrival of public transport in Buff Bay, Portland, yesterday as taxi and minibus operators withdrew their service.

Protest action by taxi and minibus operators in Portland and St Mary left scores of commuters stranded yesterday as the drivers of public passenger vehicles tried to press home their demands for a fare increase.

Some commuters argued that the protest was ill-advised as it coincided with the start of the new school year.

“It is really unreasonable, as I have been on the road from as early as 7 a.m. with no bus in sight,” Rachel Phillips of Spring Garden lamented yesterday.

“I work in Port Maria at a restaurant, but I was held up for more than two hours. I took the painful decision of travelling aboard a robot taxi from Buff Bay to Annotto Bay, which cost me $200, instead of $150,” she continued. “I am not sure what will happen for the rest of the week, but this cannot continue for much longer, as I have not budgeted for this.”

Several taxi and minibus operators who service the Buff Bay to Annotto Bay route withdrew their service early yesterday, some using their vehicles to block the roadway in Buff Bay. The police later cleared the roads.

By mid-afternoon, only two legitimate taxi operators were seen transporting passengers into Annotto Bay, while there was no sign of any minibus on that route.

The transport operators have vowed to continue the protest until their demands for a 50 per cent fare increase is met.

Leroy Bell, a commuter who was also stranded for more than an hour yesterday, believes such a hike is unrealistic.

“It will mean that one will have to pay $750 from Port Antonio to Ocho Rios, instead of $500; two-hundred and twenty-five dollars travelling from Port Antonio to Buff Bay, which was normally $150; and $375 from Port Antonio to Annotto Bay, from $250. We simply cannot afford that. While a fare increase for operators of public transport might be long overdue, such a large increase would cripple us,” Bell argued.

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