Transport group volunteers to help JGRA

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Transport group volunteers to help JGRA

...Says gas stations should not be used as taxi stands

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, February 29, 2020

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ONE of the island's major public passenger transportation groups says it stands ready to work with the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA) to put a stop to operators illegally using gas stations as taxi stands.

Head of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) Louis Barton said a campaign against the dangerous, widespread practice is necessary.

“We have to do something about this...and it is not just the parking, but all illegal activities. We are opposed to any transport operator using the gas stations as a terminus, and that is what is happening all over Jamaica. Let us work together. Let us sit down and plan the way forward on how we are going to deal with this thing,” he said in a Jamaica Observer interview.

He was responding to plans announced by the JGRA to launch a multi-stakeholder mass media awareness campaign on unauthorised activities at gas stations which pose a danger to staff and all users of the facilities.

At a press conference yesterday, JGRA President Gregory Chung said the use of gas stations as taxi stands adds to the confusion and safety hazards which gas stations continue to experience.

He said, too, that the use of gas stations for various other activities makes it difficult for employees to monitor surroundings for danger. “Gas stations are built to international standards, and are safe, once the rules are observed,” he stressed.

Chung was speaking against the background of a major fire at the Fesco gas station in Mandeville, Manchester, last Friday, which left one man dead, and others seriously injured.

“These activities do not allow the dealers as well as their staff to adequately monitor all persons for safe behaviour. This has been a long-standing problem and the JGRA along with the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) have worked on this issue in the past, with little success,” he stated.

Chung claimed, however, that assistance from the police remains inadequate. “The dealers are having a difficult time; they call the police, they come and clear it up, and as soon as they [the police] leave, they come back and overtake the gas stations,” he explained.

He said gas station operators are therefore “left to fend for themselves” most of the time. “We would want more [from the police as] more can be done,” he said.

At the same time, Barton said the main cause of the encroachment on gas stations was inadequate parking spaces for operators in the main town centres, a point which was also made by the JGRA, yesterday.

“In addition to that, the police is not enforcing the rules. We have always been advocating that the rules be enforced and, if it cannot be enforced, let's ask the [PPV] associations to talk to the operators, to put some pressure on them,” he said.

Barton said the incident in Mandeville could have been much worse had it occurred in a major town centre such as Half-Way-Tree in St Andrew.

“The Government has to recognise that it is not providing adequate parking for operators. They gave out 10,000 new licences some time ago and there was no space for them to park, so you find them doing whatever they think that they can do, however they think they can make some money,” he said, pointing out that the operators are finding their own parking and oftentimes it is illegal.

He said even where parking spaces are provided, no thought is given to passengers, who must endure the elements in areas which are uncovered. “The passenger will find a place to shelter and usually that is the gas station,” he remarked.

In the meantime, the JGRA said there must be sustained enforcement and penalties for people who do not obey rules by parking on the compound of fuel stations.

“In order to secure all the various permits and licence to operate a gas station every dealer and their respective marketing companies have an emergency preparedness plan that includes a fire safety procedure. While this has always been the responsibility of the dealer/marketing companies, the JGRA will now be examining the varying fire safety procedures in an effort to compile a minimum requirement that all JGRA members should have in place,” Chung said.


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