JUTC REPORTS LOSSESFriday, April 23, 2021
BY BALFORD HENRY
THE Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) is reporting a two-thirds reduction in revenue, which has been attributed mainly to COVID-19 as well as bad road conditions from heavy rainfall. Revenue has fallen from close to $300 million per month to $143 million, and ridership down from an average 60 or more per bus to 30 per bus.
Managing Director Paul Abrahams noted that the company has not been putting out faulty buses on the roads due to a lack of parts, as well as observing physical distancing protocols during the pandemic, which has reduced ridership.
“We are only able to carry passengers seated, so we have to limit the buses to 30 to 35 passengers per trip. So when we carry 30 seated passengers from Portmore to downtown Kingston for $100, that is about $3,000 per trip,” he explained.
“But our mandate is public passenger transportation, so whether we carry one person or 30 persons, that is what we have to do,” Abrahams stated.
The management of the Government-owned urban bus service made the disclosure to members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on Tuesday at Gordon House.
The attendance of the bus bosses followed last year July's report from the Auditor General's Department (AGD) that there were weaknesses in the company's governance practices and internal control environment.
The auditor general seemed convinced that this was mainly due to a lack of financial transparency; breaches of the human resource policy; minimal adherence to Government guidelines, including procurement law and guidelines; and limited accountability by its leadership.
In fact, the report claimed that in the 2017/18 fiscal year alone, the company's audited operating losses were close to $7.2 billion, with estimated losses of $8.1 billion for 2018/19.
However, Managing Director Paul Abrahams insisted that the haemorrhage was more evidently due to the ageing of the buses, the inability to acquire spare parts already ordered, leading to the need to cannibalise some older buses, plus bad terrain, and COVID-19.
According to the JUTC team, staff fell from 2,300 in 2016 to 1,914 last year, as the company struggled to continue operating at 2003 levels.
Abrahams said that the company is challenged with roll-out problems, basically due to COVID-19, with more people working from home and night events being affected by curfews. In addition, purchase orders which were made were also affected by the shipping of the parts which have recently begun to arrive in the island.
“We have an inflow of parts coming in, as about 100 buses have been idled by the lack of parts. We try our best not to take parts from other buses to keep the fleet running, because once you do that it starts creating other problems when the imported parts do not come in,” he said.
“However, we expect the fleet will rebound and we should be back up to at least 300-325 buses (on the roads) daily,” he said noting that the current daily output is approximately 250-275 buses.
“But, you have to appreciate that it is hard, very difficult, with the shortage of parts right now. It's extremely hard,” Abrahams confessed.
He explained that with so many buses parked, the JUTC is only able to put out 250 buses in the morning peak hours of 6:30 am to 9:00 am, but has to take back some during the slow intervening period and push them out back on the roads for the 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm evening peak period.
He said that consideration also has to be given to the fact that most of the buses are between 10 and 12 years old. Although the normal lifespan for such buses is about 14-15 years, bad terrain and heavy rains in Jamaica take a heavier toll on the company's vehicles.
JUTC plies the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR). The KMTR covers Kingston, St Andrew, urban St Catherine — Portmore and Spanish Town — and sections of St Thomas.
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