Pricey routes hit Coaster owners

Friday, March 14, 2014    

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COASTER bus operators have told the government "no thanks" in response to 29 routes under the new sub-franchise system effective April 1.

According to Bruce Miller, head of the Western Transit Association (WTA), which represents some 150 Coaster bus operators, the bus owners had no choice but to reject the $756,000 per annum price tag the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) has put on the routes.

"We are now saying to the minister, thanks, but no thanks, because we cannot afford it," Miller told Auto yesterday.

He said that the JUTC has insisted that the Coaster bus owners pay $756,000 per annum for these 29 routes, instead of the $280,000 they are now paying.

He said the Transport Authority is insisting that the Coaster bus owners will be able to pay the fee, once it clears the routes of the thousands of illegal or "robot" operators who have created an economic nightmare for the Coaster bus operators, as well as the JUTC.

But, Miller said that his members are insisting that the Transport Authority remove the illegal operators from the routes first, and let them test the level of returns they could make, in order to ascertain whether pay the $756,000 fee, but that has been ignored.

The JUTC claimed last year that that private public passenger bus operators have been encroaching on several of the 70 routes, for which it has exclusive rights to operate in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR), and that the situation had reached crisis proportions.

To remedy the problem, the JUTC says it would be working closely with the police and the Transport Authority to "retake and reassert ownership of all routes". Legal bus operators were required to apply for a reduced number of route spaces.

The JUTC also reminded commuters that it is the exclusive franchise holder for the provision of bus service in the KMTR

-- Balford Henry

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