Holness on bus tour
Says more dialogue needed between JUTC, private transport operators
OPPOSITION Leader Andrew Holness says more dialogue is needed to quell the tension between the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) and disgruntled private transport operators in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region.
Holness made the call on Tuesday while on a fact-finding tour of the KMTR which saw him riding public buses on certain routes, including from Half-Way-Tree to downtown Kingston.
"There has to be a way in which the JUTC seeks to incorporate and treat the sub-franchisees as partners in the delivery of service," said Holness.
"I think it (the transport system) is still chaotic," said Holness, as several private operators complained to him that the new JUTC sub-franchise system was cheating them of their livelihoods.
"I am the owner of two buses, and since the system my source of income has been affected," complained Bruce Miller, president for the Western Transit Association which represents 150 Coaster bus owners in the Corporate Area.
"Because of this system, I am suffering. I can't even find money to send my children to school or repay the loans I used to purchase the bus," another operator chimed in.
Holness' tour began at the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre, where he had discussions with managing director at the JUTC, Collin Campbell, as well as private bus owners.
He then travelled to downtown Kingston where he met with other transport operators.
"It is very difficult to look at someone who has put down money, invested, and then you are going to say to them we don't need you anymore where three years ago when the Government didn't have the buses and were not able to provide all the seats JUTC was expanding the number of operators. There is really unfairness there," Holness said.
In April the JUTC reclaimed several sub-franchise routes in the KMTR and instituted new procedures for the remaining private operators, including an increase in fees and the stipulation that all minibuses be repainted yellow like the JUTC buses.
The move has been met with disapproval by private operators and resulted in the stoning of JUTC buses. The police have since increased security on the affected routes.
Meanwhile, on a separate tour on Tuesday, Minister of Transport Dr Omar Davies visited the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) depot in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
During his trip, Davies spoke with workers, mostly drivers, about their responsibilities under the new sub-franchise regime.
Davies was scheduled to tour the JUTC's Portmore depot on Wednesday and the Rockfort depot in east Kingston on Thursday.