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Crucial week for public transport

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior Staff Reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, January 18, 2014    

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LOUIS Barton, president of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO), said next week will be very crucial during its talks with the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).

The JUTC is intent on reducing the number fo sub-franchise holders from 387 to 250 come April.

"It will definitely be the crucial for us, in our discussions with the Ministry of Transport and Works," said Barton told Auto.

He noted that while other organisations representing private contractors operating within the JUTC's sub-franchised system have threatened industrial action, his organisation is still involved in discussions.

He is, however, wary that the January 31 deadline for bids for new sub-franchises is fast approaching.

Last Sunday, the JUTC published advertisements formalising its decision to take back a number of routes.

The announcement, which was made last year by JUTC managing director Colin Campbell, saw operators -- notably those represented by JATOO -- embarking on a two-day strike.

Campbell said the JUTC would be reducing its sub-franchises, commensurate with an increase in the number of buses in its fleet to 400, with the arrival of newly imported Volvo vehicles under an agreement inherited from the previous government.

JATOO had complained that the notices requiring the operators to give up their licences by the end of March, after investing millions in the system, was unfair.

The current sub-franchisees would lose their licence and would have to bid for the 5,000 seats available. The JUTC would issue one-year licences to be reviewed annually.

The private contractors are not only upset that they will all lose their licences and have to bid for a reduced number of seats on some of the least profitable routes, but also the routes being offered are among the most volatile in the transport region.

"It is the routes that nobody can make money from, that's all they want to give us," said one operator told Auto.

The routes being advertised include those terminating in downtown Kingston from Hellshire, Above Rocks, Waltham Park Road, Seaview Gardens and Waterhouse; and routes terminating in Papine, from Constitution Hill, Content Gap, Dallas, Hall's Delight, Mount Charles and St Peter's.

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