Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 23, 2017 (SKNIS): The construction of a modern East Line Bus Terminal on Wellington Road, expected to begin in a few months, and the subsequent improvement project for the West Line Bus Terminal on the Basseterre Bay Road, are part of the government’s strategy to uplift the public transport service in St. Kitts.
Minister of Public Infrastructure and Transport, Hon. Ian “Patches” Liburd, said that this is one way in which government “is giving back” to persons involved in public transportation.
“Although the government is spending millions of dollars in the improvement of these facilities, they come at absolutely no cost whatsoever to the bus drivers, to the bus owners, or to the taxi drivers or the taxi owners,” Minister Liburd said on Tuesday (February 21) at the latest town hall meeting in the “Good Governance and Accountability for Prosperity” series.
However, he advised that the bus and taxi system must improve to provide “a better, safer, cleaner, more effective and efficient service for passengers. Minister Liburd also highlighted that a number of issues troubling the industry must be addressed. These include the unsanctioned practice by some drivers to charge higher rates for late night service; extending service to underserved areas in some rural communities; increasing security for bus drivers; and should a cap, removed in 2005, be restored to ensure that new persons can enter the market more freely.
“Is it right that one bus owner will have five buses and nobody else can come into the trade?” the transport minister asked. “These are issues we must address and we don’t need [any] confrontation. We are a government of consultation; come and meet with us because we say a fair share for all.”
Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, said there is “a give and take” aspect that must be factored into the discussions to ensure an unreasonable burden is not being placed on commuters, particularly, the younger and older segments of the population.
“We have to, when people are talking about changing the bus fare, say well what was the price of gasoline when the fare was at that particular price, and now that the gasoline price has gone down over the years, can the same considerations apply?” Dr. Harris questioned, adding that there must be a balance. “So we are welcoming the opportunity to meet, without prejudging, and each side puts its case, and like reasonable people I am sure we will reach an agreement.”
Any decisions, however, is likely to take some time as any changes should be presented to the Traffic Safety and Public Service Driver’s Board for consideration. The Board is expected to next meet on Tuesday, February 28. Representatives of the taxi association and the bus association are members of this Board.