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The Ministry of Transport and Works is moving to address the problem of illegal buses operating in the public transportation system, which, among other things, is being blamed for the estimated $100 million revenue loss each month, which is being sustained by the state-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).
Portfolio Minister, Michael Henry, addressing journalists at a media briefing at Jamaica House on December 18, said that the Ministry is examining the attendant challenges associated with the activities of illegal transport operators, and is to prepare a Cabinet submission on how best to effectively address the issue. Among the areas being looked at are amendments to the Road Traffic Act, and a widening of the powers of arrest to incorporate other stakeholders.
“The team in the Ministry is coming up with that (plan), which must relate to. who is able to make an arrest when an illegal operator is on a route. What happens now is that it’s only the police that can make an arrest, so traffic supervisors can only stop you and, maybe, write something up, but they can’t really take you off the route. One of the things that we discussed… was how we can expand what we have… making them being able to carry out that arrest. The illegal operators create… problems for the income (of the JUTC),” the Transport Minister said.
Chairman of the JUTC, Robin Levy, who also attended the briefing, said that the $100 million being lost by the JUTC each month is “untenable”. He lamented that despite significant efforts to improve the company’s efficiency, the entity “continues to be. bankrupt, insolvent, and ill-equipped.”
He informed that currently, JUTC is carrying six per cent less passengers than the number for the corresponding period last year, “but with 1,000 fewer employees.”
“So, in terms of some of the milestones, (such as) efficiency, those have been created, but the company continues to bleed red for a number of reasons. The number one reason is apparent. it’s illegal operators,” Mr. Levy stated.
Mr. Henry advised that some “new approaches” are being pursued by the Ministry and JUTC, including procuring smaller buses to service the hilly routes, where, he pointed out, “there is a problem.”
“We are looking at other areas that have to be addressed, (in terms of) how to increase the income revenue from advertising, especially with the new buses coming etc.” the Minister informed.
On another matter, Mr. Henry advised that the Ministry is awaiting the outcome of the National Transport Cooperative Society’s (NTCS) case against the Government in the United Kingdom Privy Council, in respect of the NTCS, transport franchise operations. The NTCS is seeking damages in respect of claims of losses sustained after the Government reassumed control of the bus company’s franchise area. However, both sides negotiated for the NTCS to operate on specific routes. This contract, the Minister advised, expired in September, and was extended to January 1, 2009.
Regarding the Privy Council case, Mr. Henry said “we have… to wait on that. We still have to begin to prepare for it… because we don’t have enough buses to service (that route). So we have to ensure that these routes are (properly) run.”