Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
The Belgian manufacturers of the €1-million bus simulator, given to Jamaica as a gift by the government of that country, have issued a stern rebuke to local officials who have claimed that the equipment was not working properly from it arrived and repairing it would be too costly.
A statement issued by Transurb Technirail based in the Belgian capital of Brussels last week contradicted the claims which were made by the executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI).
According to the Belgian company, poor preparation for the arrival of the bus simulator and the subsequent shoddy handling of the machine led to its early demise.
"We confirm that the infrastructure that should have been foreseen upon delivery and installation of the bus simulator in Jamaica was inadequate.
"Our technical services detected leaks in the roof of the building causing water infiltration. This was of course at the expense of the equipment," read a section of Transurb's response.
"The simulator was put out of service perforce. Even after a new assignment of our engineers, during which we submitted a proposal to replace the equipment, we did not receive a reply. Therefore, the problem was not solved," the Belgian company added.
Transurb said it was always ready to provide solutions, but during the entire warranty period of one year, it did not receive any complaints from the CMI.
This is a direct contradiction of a statement made by Fritz Pinnock, executive director of the CMI.
Pinnock had told The Sunday Gleaner that the machine was fixed several times during the one-year warranty.
"It is a proprietary system … . Everything you want (for the simulator), you have to go back to Europe, and look at the price of the euro now. There are cheaper simulators on the market. We decided not to fix it anymore after the warranty expired," Pinnock had claimed.
When contacted last Friday, Pinnock stood by his story despite the denials of the Belgian firm.
"They were called and they came," said Pinnock, who was adamant that the Belgian bus simulator was not a perfect fit for Jamaica because it was too expensive to operate and maintain.
"From day one, the simulator was not appropriate (for Jamaica). It was not a standard-type professional simulator. It was a specialised (unit)," said Pinnock.
He also rejected the notion that the incompetence of handlers at the CMI led to the destruction of the multimillion-dollar piece of equipment that was donated almost four years ago, but stopped working in the summer of 2010.
"We have been handling simulators for over 20 years. It is part of the training offered here at CMI and we have the largest number of simulators on the island," said a defiant Pinnock.
Osric Forrest, director of the School of Advanced Skills, supported Pinnock's position, as he also told our news team that Jamaica had limited use of the simulator from day one.
However, the Belgian firm argued that Jamaica had signed the definite commissioning and final acceptance certificate, which included "a proper training programme and perfectly functional simulator".
According to the Belgian firm, the leaky roof was just one of the problems that contributed to the early demise of the bus simulator.
"Apart from the leaking roof, we confirm that the building was not connected to the electricity grid, the simulator was only functional by means of a generator. Thus, the space was never air-conditioned, which was absolutely necessary not to damage the hardware.
"The necessary specifications for the building (responsibility of the client) was clearly mentioned in the contract," the Belgian company pointed out.
FEW DRIVERS BENEFITED
Last week, our news team reported that nearly four years after the Belgian government donated a multimillion-dollar bus-driving simulator to the Government of Jamaica, the very expensive piece of technology now lies in ruins and will not be repaired.
When the simulator arrived back in 2009, it was heralded as a watershed moment in the public transport sector that would improve the quality of local bus driving.
However, not many Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) drivers even got a chance to sit around the steering wheel of the simulator before it gave up the ghost. Only two batches of 25 JUTC drivers benefited from the Belgian gift.
Another 25 drivers from the private sector were also able to utilise the machine.
A recent visit to the Palisadoes Park-based Caribbean Maritime Institute, where the simulator is housed, revealed that the equipment is non-functional.
Sections of the virtual-reality machine were pulled down and the housing is being used to store a few mattresses, a dirty suitcase and other debris.