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St Thomas cabbies accused of illegal fare hike

Published:Wednesday | November 25, 2020 | 12:18 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer

Commuters travelling from Kingston to St Thomas are raising concerns about what they describe as an unauthorised hike in taxi fares.

Sharing that they are being forced to pay 20 per cent more in travel costs, the commuters say that they are being exploited by taxi operators.

However, the operators, who ply the route from downtown Kington to Yallahs and Morant Bay in St Thomas, are defending their decision to raise fares, claiming that their vehicles are being damaged by flood-damaged roads.

Speaking with The Gleaner, one operator revealed that he feels justified in increasing fares because they are licensed stakeholders.

“You won’t hear it on the news because there’s no official route from town to St Thomas for taxis. We take our own risks, so when they catch us and take our cars, is we have to do everything.

“We put ourselves and our vehicles at risk to transport these passengers, so if we decide to raise the fare, the people should understand,” he said.

Sharing that the last approved fare increase was in 2013, corporate communications manager at the Transport Authority, Petra-Kene Williams, confirmed that taxi operators are not licensed to operate on that route.

“The routes originating from downtown and terminating in St Thomas would be licensed as rural stage carriages only, based on the length of the routes. It should be noted that the Transport Authority has issued no route taxi road licences for this corridor,” she said.

Motor cars operating on that route would be doing so illegally or contrary to the terms and conditions of their road licences, Williams added.

The communications manager encouraged commuters to use licensed with the routes emblazoned on the front and rear of the vehicle.

GAMING THE SYSTEM

A rogue taxi operator explained how the illegal players gamed the system.

“All the taxis that you see run this route is like ‘robot’. We running even though we have our road licence and we are insured to carry passengers – just not on this route. A we really come together and do it, that’s why we on the radio (WhatsApp group) to let each other know when the police is up the road,” said the cabbie, requesting that his identity be withheld.

“Sometimes yu have to make the passengers come out and walk pass the police and then we pick them up back. So is not a thing weh Government give us, a we just take a chance. Sometimes we benefit and sometimes we lose, and right now we losing,” he added.

As he skilfully navigated the sinkholes that littered the Bull Bay to Yallahs thoroughfare, shaking his head and sighing heavily each time the wheels of his AD Wagon fell into craters, a cabbie lamented that the $250 fare to Yallahs was not enough.

Right now mi have some parts to buy for mi car, because the water weh we guh through the other day really do a lot of damage to the vehicles,” he said.

“Is about 15 grand dem seh to fix mi front end, and yu nuh know what else you going to find when dem pull it down … so maybe it cost me over 20 grand.”

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