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Guyana to undercut river bridge toll

Published:Tuesday | September 8, 2015 | 12:16 PM

Guyana's government said on Sunday that it will let private boat owners offer taxi service across a river near the Suriname border after the opposition-linked company that controls the bridge over it refused to lower tolls.

In its budget presentation last month, the government had ordered that a US$10 toll for vehicles crossing the Berbice River bridge be reduced by about US$3, but company directors refused and instead asked for a 50 per cent increase in rates. The Berbice River Company Inc has the rights to operate the bridge for 21 years.

On Sunday, State Minister Joseph Harmon said authorities will offer vehicles a cheaper way across the river by allowing private vessels to compete with the toll bridge and will help the boat owners keep rates down by subsidising their services.

The bridge, about 60 miles (97 kilometres) southeast of the city, is the lifeline connection between the capital and the coastal region near Suriname. It is controlled by an opposition businessman.

The previous government had banned the state ferry service from competing with the facility and had also done the same to private operators, giving the firm a monopoly.

President David Granger has said the government is reacting to demands from students and the poor who cannot afford rates for crossing the bridge to go to school and to access state services on the other side of the river in New Amsterdam town.

- AP