Members of the various bus and taxi associations met with several representatives of statutory corporations in Antigua and Barbuda to discuss the new rules regarding the renewal of public service licences.
Speaking to OBSERVER media yesterday, Keithroy Black of the Antigua and Barbuda Bus Association said the meeting at the Multipurpose Cultural Centre was well-attended by members.
Representatives of the Transport Board, Board of Education, Medical Benefits and Social Security Scheme held discussions with the bus and taxi drivers about the stipulation that they should receive a letter of good standing before they can renew their permits.
The meeting was heated throughout the night, with impassioned speeches from members of the taxi association.
Vice president of the United Taxi Association Elton Williams made the case to regulators that there needs to be increased scrutiny in the public service system to prevent privately owned transport vehicles from providing taxi service in Antigua and Barbuda.
“We are prepared to abide by the laws of this nation to pay what we [are] asked to pay,” he said, “but [the taxi service] needs to be properly regulated; that is the problem. Unless it is regulated, we [taxi drivers] have to fight against and underbid each other to make a dollar that we are required to pay to the statutory bodies.
“People are now transporting visitors under the guise of private transfer, and we are seeing them drive to the airport and hotels in different vehicles. So taxi drivers who have been waiting since early morning to pick up visitors, are now competing with the people for whom we were
,” he said.
Williams added that taxi operators are being asked to incur further expenses by the tour operators.
“The tour agents are looking at our vehicles and are telling us that they do not want any vehicle more than three years old, which cost at least $169,000. So every five years we [taxi drivers] are required to upgrade to keep the tour industry in Antigua looking pristine,” he said.
Other issues raised during the meeting included the possibility of increasing fares for bus and taxi operators.
Hubert Jarvis, General Manager for the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board, was one of the panel members at the discussion.
Jarvis told attendees that any discussion of fare increases would need to be discussed with Cabinet.
“In a request to Cabinet, you can ask for an adjustment in the fare structure, because I agree that there has not been a fare raise for almost 12 years. However, other than a raise, you can ask for incentives; a reduction fee on tyres and fuel,” he said.
Jarvis also told members that the Transport Board, police and officials from the Ministry of Tourism will meet next to discuss plans to address the privately owned transport operators.
“That sub-industry is not regulated by the Transport Board, and we are going to look at it with the Ministry of Tourism, because that activity affects the tourism product,” he said, adding that a plan should be rolled out within the next few months.