… opting to wait for the ferry
Despite the long wait for the bridge across the Berbice River which was opened to the public on December 23, many commuters continue to use the Rosignol/New Amsterdam ferry because of the bridge toll.
When Stabroek News visited the Rosignol stelling yesterday many passengers were patiently awaiting the ferry to get across to New Amsterdam. They told this newspaper that even though the bridge was much faster they could not afford to cross there.
Persons from West Coast Berbice said they had to travel to the stelling and join another vehicle that would take them across the bridge to the access road at Palmyra at a cost of $400. At Palmyra, they said, they have to board another vehicle to get to their destinations.
Some of the drivers also drop off passengers at New Amsterdam and from there would load their buses to take passengers to Georgetown. This newspaper observed yesterday that a Route 63 bus went to the Rosignol stelling to try to solicit passengers, but the police arrived and took away the driver’s licence, but returned it shortly after.
Hire cars drivers commented that it was wrong for the Route 63 buses to do that because “they only supposed to drop off passengers on this side, not load their buses.”
They drivers who were waiting on passengers to go to Georgetown said that “it hard; it really hard fuh we get passengers now.” They contended that if they were to transport passengers across the bridge they would have to charge $600 each, noting that they could only carry four persons, while the buses carry 15 persons and pay the same toll.
Some of the drivers said that although many commuters were still using the ferry most of them just travel “short.” Both minibus and hire car drivers said sometimes they are forced to leave the stelling with one or two passenger and “we have to cut the road.”
Meanwhile, a woman said that when she went to the stelling yesterday to join the bus to go across the bridge, the ferry had just come in so she decided to wait on it as it was much more economical.
Other residents said that they have crossed the bridge, but the $2,200 toll for cars and minibuses was “way too expensive,” causing the drivers to increase their fares.” They said that once the boat is working they would continue to use it. Passengers pay $120 return on the ferry.
The drivers also said that government should have set new zoning systems before the bridge was opened as there is a lot of confusion at the stellings and passengers are not sure what buses to join.
A few passengers said they joined a Route 63 bus from Rose Hall, Corentyne to go to Bush Lot, West Berbice and the driver demanded that they pay the Georgetown fare.
The commuters and minibus and hire car drivers are calling for the price of the toll to be lowered, pointing out that the “government should get a loan to pay off for the bridge and take control of the price.”
Another driver said, “The passengers are crying out to pay the fare we charging and we don’t want to kill them but the toll is ridiculous and even we cannot afford it.”
A pensioner, Ivelaw Benjamin of East Ruimveldt who last travelled to Berbice 30 years ago, said while it would have been nice for him to travel on the bridge it was “much cheaper to use the ferry.” He and three other family members were on their way to his daughter’s wedding at Rose Hall Town.
This newspaper observed too that not only passengers were beating the cost but some small vehicles as well. The bridge toll is only paid at the D’ Edward end, as vehicles proceed to East Berbice from West Berbice and drivers are already taking advantage of that arrangement.
Yesterday many vehicles joined the ferry at the stelling to go to New Amsterdam and the owners were planning to make the trip back across the bridge for free. Many other drivers had already started to do that.
Asked whether they can still accommodate small vehicles, an official from the stelling responded, “This is a public place and the drivers are free to cross”. An official at the bridge said “well if they want the hassle and the long wait they could go with the boat but if they want to go fast they could come here.”
The owner of a “goods” minibus from the East Coast who visits Berbice twice per week to ply his trade said he was about to pay the toll to cross the bridge yesterday morning and when he heard he would have to pay $7,700 he promptly turned back.
The man said he headed to the stelling to join the ferry where he would just have to pay $2,500 to cross, saving more than $5,000.
A family from the East Coast who wanted to experience crossing the bridge on Sunday afternoon with their RAV 4 said they had not seen the publication of the toll charges by the Berbice Bridge Company Inc and they were shocked to learn that they would have to pay $4,000.
The woman who was sitting in the front passenger’s seat with her husband started to protest loudly. She told this newspaper that had she been driving she would have turned right back.
Bridge is positive move
Meanwhile, a few truck drivers who were contracted by a company to transport drinks to East Berbice said they were sorry that the bridge could only accommodate light vehicles at the moment. They are aware that the toll charges would be higher but said the company would have to “work out something with the bridge.”
They said the ferry was “ok for now but we can’t wait to start using the bridge.” A driver who did not make it on the boat with the other trucks because of space told this newspaper that the pontoon, which was mooring into the stelling, could only accommodate the small vehicles.
He said he was told by a worker at the stelling that the boat would moor at Stanleytown, New Amsterdam until 3 pm before it started working again because there was not much “traffic” at New Amsterdam.
He said that was not fair because even if there was not much traffic at New Amsterdam, traffic was building up at Rosignol. The driver, who lives on the East Coast and was driving his truck to “take the load to Skeldon”, wondered what time he would get back home.
Other businesspersons who this newspaper contacted said while they acknowledged that the toll charges were high they would prefer to pay it than be stuck at the stelling for hours watching others get on the boat.
They also said that the bridge is a “dream come through and the best thing that ever happened to Berbicians.”
According to them a lot of man hours would now be saved and persons would get home early leaving behind the “frustration and the discontent of passengers not being able to get onboard the vessels.”
Meanwhile work is still ongoing on the access road on the eastern side. The road was fixed hurriedly to facilitate the opening of the bridge.