Sun | Jan 26, 2020

Letter of the Day | Revving up rural public transit

Published:Monday | December 9, 2019 | 12:11 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

As a citizen of this noble country, it is important to caution the Government on grand scheming and legacy announcements that will come at great expense to taxpayers.

We are mindful of the Government’s effort to upgrade some of the country’s aerodromes. However, an in-depth analysis into each facility and the operations must be done. Data acquired by the Access to Information Act and aired on Television Jamaica reveal that some of our aerodromes are operating at a great loss.

The aerodromes, as it stands, are underutilised and not profitable. To put things into perspective, consider that the Negril Aerodrome – operating within the period of 2011-2018 – saw losses amounting to $216.8 million.

At the Ken Jones Aerodrome, between 2011 and 2018, the accumulated loss was $83.1 million. Both facilities have cost taxpayers just under $300 million over the same period. The Ian Fleming aerodrome has experienced similar losses, as it costs $380 million to operate, while the earnings is a meagre $33.5 million.

Despite the glaring issue, the Government is exploring the possibility of establishing other aerodromes, with no announcement to solve the imminent issues.

While I appreciate the need for aerodromes in the near future, a better suggestion is that the Government invest in and fully implement the rural school bus transport system. It was the most Honourable Prime Minister Andrew Holness, then opposition leader in 2013, who called for the introduction of a proper rural public bus system. This, he believed, would improve the safety and reliability of transportation for schoolchildren.

Impact on Absentees

Additionally, the Ministry of Education has revealed that 20 per cent of our children generally are absent from school each day due to the high cost of transportation.

Has the PM not shared the vision with his colleagues? Wouldn’t a rural bus system provide a safe and affordable mode of transportation, which will, in the end, improve the attendance and productivity of students in rural areas?

The absence of proper transport has increased lawlessness, as some taxi drivers mirror the slave ship, recklessly taking cargo to and from with no regard for their lives.

We are urging the Government, especially in light of the recent road fatalities, to implement the rural school bus transport system as a matter of urgency.

BENYAMIN COOKE

Concerned citizen