By Orville Williams
In the midst of preparations for the upcoming academic year, the National School Bus System has received a welcome boost in the form of two donated electrical buses.
The buses form part of an Electric Bus Pilot Project being undertaken by the Department of Environment (DoE) in the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, in collaboration with the Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea in the Italian government.
Both units were handed over to the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board (ABTB) by personnel attached to the project, in a ceremony at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground on Tuesday.
The school bus system will undoubtedly face challenges in navigating the first full academic year amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the addition of the buses will contribute to alleviating some of the issues.
Speaking at the handing-over ceremony, Network Manager at the ABTB, Arif Jonas, expressed thanks to the Italian government for funding the acquisition of the buses and to the DoE for their efforts in realising the project.
Also speaking at the ceremony was Stanley Barreto of Megapower Antigua, whose company was responsible for providing the buses. He spoke on the impact of the project on the nation’s children and also shared some details on the units.
“These are two 20-seater school buses [with] a hundred miles of drivable range, so you can achieve everywhere you want to go in Antigua – there and back – a couple times over. [Additionally], you get exposure, these kids will get an understanding of what the future will look like,” Barreto said.
The Director of the DoE, Ambassador Diann Black-Layne, also spoke on the landmark project, which she praised for defying certain stereotypes regarding projects of this nature.
“The whole [process] of getting electric vehicles is still very new and you have to special-order them, especially in our region. If a vehicle is coming to our region, it’s a long, drawn-out process and we were really lucky to be able to even get these buses, especially when we’re only ordering two,” Black-Layne explained.
The new buses could immediately be put into operation when the academic year officially begins on September 7.