The state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), armed with a new Board of Directors and Managing Director, has been mandated to achieve financial stability, restore order to the public transportation system, increase customer service, and in general, provide an “efficient and civilised public transportation service."
This charge was given to the newly installed leadership by Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Hon. Dr. Omar Davies, as he introduced the team during a press conference, held at the Terra Nova Hotel, in Kingston, on Friday, March 16.
Dr. Davies said that among the priorities designed to achieve this objective would be the cost effective rehabilitation and restoration to service of a number of JUTC buses, currently in a state of disrepair.
The JUTC has just under 300 buses in various stages of disrepair and the Minister explained that of the number, several have been “written-off” and will be deployed in the school system as libraries, information centres and classrooms.
The rehabilitation programme will be undertaken through a joint venture between the JUTC and the Jamaica/German Automotive School (JAGAS), with the Minister advising that details of this arrangement will be forthcoming during a presentation to Parliament.
Another area of concern, the Minister observed, is the high cost of motor vehicle claims resulting from accidents involving JUTC buses. “There are currently some 3,400 outstanding claims valued at an estimated $850 million, and an average of 65 accidents per year,” he added.
This situation is to be addressed through enhanced training of drivers and continued cost recovery from those who are liable.
Other measures being considered to enhance the service and viability of the JUTC include the expansion of the cashless fare system, and the operation of shuttles at key points, particularly involving routes emanating from “hilly communities."
With respect to the pervasive problem of illegal transport operators, the Minister advised that all legal operators will be encouraged to conduct their operations in a proper manner, but warned that those who operate illegally, “misbehave, create chaos and (engage in acts of) indiscipline, will not be tolerated."
New Managing Director of the JUTC, Rear Admiral Hardly Lewin, announced that his priorities for the first six months include, “ensuring maximum bank for the buck, reduction of waste and pilferage, motivating existing staff, ensuring transparent procurement and improving customer satisfaction."
The new JUTC Board is chaired by Rev. Garnett Roper and includes a representative of the disabled community, Dr. Heather Little Whyte, and student representative, Rayon Walters.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter