DESPITE a $30-million jump in weekly earnings since the start of the new school year, the State-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) is still out of pocket, due to high operational costs.
The high cost of fuel, toll booth fees, a whopping salary bill, utilities and legal bills have left managers at the bus company frustrated as to how to get the entity to operate in the black.
Speaking at the Jamaica Observer's Press Club meeting on Thursday, JUTC Managing Director Colin Campbell said that the company is now pulling in $75 million weekly since the school year began earlier this month. That's an improvement from the average $45 million that it earned during the summer holiday period.
The company was last month granted a 25 per cent increase on the $80 adult fares, but children under 12, students in uniform, the elderly and the disabled are still required to pay $20.
Campbell said that even though more money is coming into the company's coffers, there is a lot more that can be achieved.
"We believe we can push the revenue numbers to higher than where they are. If we manage to achieve those revenue numbers we will be able to have a company that is better managed, in terms of meeting our obligations, in terms of servicing our units in a more timely way, as well as providing a generally improved service to our commuters," he said.
But Campbell's dream of ratcheting up the JUTC's cash intake is still being hampered by the huge bills that have burst a gaping hole in its till.
One of the major bills that the cash-strapped company has to foot is a multimillion-dollar annual toll booth cost that buses which ply the Kingston to Portmore route are straddled with, according to Deputy Managing Director of Operations Kirk Finnikin.
"Toll charges cost us about $10 million per month, so you can call it $120 million per year," Finnikin said.
In addition, JUTC buses use an average of 300 litres of fuel daily and at an average cost of $115 per litre of fuel, the JUTC forks out over $800 million annually on fuel costs.
The company also employs 1,724 people, including 900 drivers and 11 customer service agents who process tickets on articulated buses and work in transport hubs.
This leads to a huge salary bill which also runs into hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
While not being able to provide the cost of the wage bill, Finnikin said that it was singularly the highest operational cost facing the JUTC.
"Our highest operating cost is, by far, salaries. Then you have fuel," he said.
Other operational costs, such as wear and tear and accidents, like the burning of a bus on Hope Road in the Corporate Area two weeks ago, also mount up the company's bill.
However, Campbell remained confident that the JUTC can at least break even, once it operates more efficiently and makes every attempt to block all the loopholes where cash leaks out freely.
He said that a drive towards the full implementation of a cashless system, the introduction of a park-and-ride system for Portmore passengers and a bolstered move at attracting advertisers could assist in taking the public transport service out of its present financial woes.
"We transport 60 million passengers per year, so you see that our advertising options are greater than any media house. We will have to look at those areas," he said.
In addition, the company is looking at phasing out certain sub-franchises on routes which are presently serviced by the JUTC.