Future PNP Government will put the bus company on better footing
Opposition Spokesman on Transport and Works, Mikael Phillips has poured cold water on the Andrew Holness administration’s stewardship of the transportation sector, in particular its oversight of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).
Phillips lambasted the administration for not being able to cauterise the estimated $11-billion-dollar loss estimated by the public bus company during this financial year with a J$7-billion-dollar subvention, which he deemed unfair and unacceptable noting that rural folks get no such subsidy.
Making his contribution to the 2023/2024 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday, Phillips promised that after 20 years of JUTC operations, if elected his People’s National Party (PNP) will stop the massive haemorrhaging taking place, as a matter of urgency.
In addition, he declared that the new PNP administration will put the JUTC on a sustainable path to fulfil its role as an efficient mass transit provider in our capital city and in the future the entire country.
Widening gap in JUTC bus fleet
He cited the widening gap in JUTC’s rolling stock, arguing “Even with the purchase of the 70 buses that we are told will be added later this year, and which the Minister said would be here six months ago, JUTC will have a huge gap in its operating fleet.”
The Opposition Spokesman on Transport and Works highlighted that there are only 170 reliable units at the company today when 550 are needed to take care of the needs of the over half a million transit-dependent persons in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR) daily.
He reminded the House that during the budget debate, the Minister of Finance announced the purchase of 200 electric buses over the next two years concluding that “this is inadequate and will only serve to perpetuate the present ramshackle system because of seat shortages.”
He told the parliament of information coming to his attention that there will be operating challenges with E-buses being purchased by the government, some of which he said are cultural challenges.
Examples of which he pointed out are the incidences of stoning adding that these buses are made almost entirely of glass since they must be light. Added to this is the fact that our road network, much of which is hilly may pose a difficulty for these buses.
He made the point that the Opposition fully supports the introduction of E-buses, cautioning that the administration must be careful with the specifications.
Call for transparency in procurement
The Opposition spokesman is demanding transparency in the procurement of these e-buses, as no requests have been made public, yet the public is hearing of a contract award. He expressed the hope that the responsible minister and the government will speak more on this.
Phillips said the JUTC needs 400 buses over the next three years with adequate spare parts with necessary service and special tools agreements to cover the new and existing fleet that will be beneficial to the public bus company. This is in addition to a new fare collection system to replace the existing one, which is now over 10 years and serviced by the Czech Republic.
He identified that a new system is needed to reduce pilferage and leakage from the fare box, as fare collection has dwindled from J$5 billion annually under the previous PNP administration to J$1.5 billion under the current Holness government.