St James cabbies withdraw services, want fines adjusted
Firefighters clear a downed tree in Unity Hall, St James, on Monday morning.

SEVERAL St James-based taxi drivers withdrew their services on Monday in an act of protest, mainly against the increased fines now presented in the new Road Traffic Act.

As part of the protests, a large tree was hacked down and used to block sections of the Unity Hall main road in the early hours of Monday morning.

That situation was, however, soon cleared up through the efforts of firefighters, police officers and personnel from the National Solid Waste Management Authority.

Further, in a more coordinated effort, drivers in the Freeport area elected to park their vehicles at the roundabout and halted the free flow of taxi services which had workers, mainly business process outsourcing (BPO) staff, walking or finding other means of transportation to work.

Ernest Brown, one of the protesting drivers, told the Jamaica Observer that his issue is the restrictions on which he can get passengers on the streets of Montego Bay.

"My grouse is especially the contrary business, it's very terrible on me because even Monday morning gone... just as I came out and I take up a couple people round by Strand Street there, my vehicle was wrecker up and it cost me $34,140 to be exact to get back my vehicle," he said.

"I have never run to Flanker, never run to Mount Salem, I've never gone to Rose Mount, I've never gone to nowhere else other than Freeport, so I can't understand this contrary business there," he further added.

Brown maintained that the park can't manage all the operators and therefore that is an issue that needs rectifying as well, as intervention from the relevant authorities.

Another driver who plies the Freeport route shared similar sentiments.

"We see that they have come with some new fines such as operating contrary, which is now $30,000, that move up from $20,000 and that don't include wrecker fee, pound fee, and those things," he stated.

Another driver is of the view that the Government is only targeting public passenger operators, rather than all motorists.

"Whenever them want money, a taxi man them come after. Any time them need some money, we can't operate in peace," he declared.

The drivers are hoping that there will be meaningful dialogue in short order so that their issues can be addressed so they can continue providing the services required to the public.

Meanwhile, Granville United Pitfour Taxi Association President Lansford Gooden said Monday was a peaceful day in Montego Bay despite the withdrawal of services.

"On Monday the drivers withdrew their services. You could see them park up, some playing dominoes, some playing draughts, some just looking at what is going on," he explained.

He however explained that the associations are looking to engage the Government in dialogue about the Act.

"They are looking for dialogue with the Government to look at the new Road Traffic Act, especially the fines. Some of these fines are like 300 per cent increase and we find it very unfair because we are the most frequent road users, the taxi operators, and those fines will affect us more," he explained.

Over the weekend, taxi operators promised some form of action in response to the implementation of the new Road Traffic Act. Operators have also been in disagreement with a number of other issues in the Act, especially the much-talked-about car seat requirement for children.

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