Transport Board stops private sale of bus routes

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The Transport Board has put the brakes on the scandalous practice of people in “privileged” positions “transferring” bus routes for exorbitant amounts as high as $20,000.
General Manager Herbert ‘Junie’ Jarvis told OBSERVER media that the Board became aware of the scam through complaints from dissatisfied persons who had discovered they were being kept out of the system, because others with “deep pockets” were paying large sums to come through the “backdoor”.
“We found out that the transfers to friends and family are nothing more than sales” by some of those who had grabbed up multiple routes when they were being dished out in the early days, Jarvis explained.
Acquiring a bus route directly through the statutory corporation costs less than a $1000, comprising fees for a police certificate of character, the Service Ambassador’s certificate from the Antigua & Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute and a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) permit.
Because of the camouflaged sales, the Transport Board no longer allows operators to transfer routes. “You want a route you come in and we deal with you individually,” the general manager said.
One man who was waiting for over two years to get a route, told this newspaper, on condition of anonymity, that he believes his chances have improved now that those with the “money to burn” can no longer jump to the front of the queue.
But it’s not that easy. With transfers, a new operator takes over an existing slot but new applicants to the Transport Board would mean more operators in what Jarvis said is an already saturated sector.
“When you apply for a route and we have enough buses on that route, we consult with the Bus Association and we agree on how to bring that person into the system,” he expounded.
Bus Association president, Keithroy Black said he has heard that routes were being sold but had no evidence to support the claim.
A total of 430 buses operate out of the West and East Terminals. Route 42 and 54 are in the West bus stand.
OBSERVER media stumbled on the “bus sharks” while searching for answers as to why one PSV operator was getting preferential treatment by being allowed to ply two routes with the same buses.
Bus owner and driver of 30 years, Glasworth Josiah had brought the latter practice to our attention last week following an incident in the West Bus Station.
“The officer noticed that a Route 42 bus which goes to Coolidge was in the Route 54 line for buses that take commuters to Woods. The officer told the driver to come out of the line. He obeyed the officer [but] the bus came back down the road with two stickers. That is not legal in this country,” he said.
But apparently it is legal for the bus company in question, which, according to the general manager of the Transport Board, has been allowed to alternate its buses on those two routes from since “yesteryear” and is the only anomaly in the system.
Jarvis surmised that the irregularity might have been “okayed” because the previous heads of the Transport Board thought that it was not economically viable to operate only on the Coolidge or Woods route which can both be slow sometimes.
With the present situation causing “reverberation” among bus drivers the general manager has committed to finding a resolution as soon as possible, beginning sometime this week.  He said the Bus Association would be consulted on the way forward.
The head of the Traffic Department Superintendent Leonard Cabral told this newspaper on Friday that he became aware of the vexing disparity on the previous day. But he had clearly been apprised of the situation, because he was able to share that the PSV owner in contention, owned eight buses and has been alternating the vehicles on routes 42 and 54 for “over 20 years now”.
He said that the authorities are considering levelling the playing field by giving other operators servicing the Woods and Coolidge routes, the privilege of having the two routes on one vehicle.
Even though veteran bus driver Glasworth Josiah, who runs two buses on the Woods route would benefit, he vehemently opposes the suggestion, saying “you can’t fix wrong with wrong”.
Bus Association president Keithroy Black said he trusts that the general manager of the Transport Board would follow through on promises to regularize the situation in a fair manner. “I trust his judgement but I am going to keep on him to make sure he deals with it,” he reinforced as he explained that the operator enjoyed a monopoly on the Woods route for about eight years.
“The association has just broken that.  A gentleman came to us because he has the resources to put a big bus on that route and we gave him permission. No monopoly is going to happen under my presidency,” he warned.
Efforts to reach the bus owner who has spawned the controversy were unsuccessful.

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