What the people say about…The Berbice bridge

This week on What the People Say we asked persons to comment on the Berbice River Bridge and got the following responses:

Interviews and photos by Shabna Ullah

20090112shazidaShazida Abdulla, New Amsterdam businesswoman

‘It is a pleasure driving across the bridge because I am able to get to my destination and back in a short time. I also think that the bridge has helped to enhance the landscape of Berbice. However I think there should at least be signs pointing to the bridge at both ends of the approach road. There should also be lights at both ends as well as but since I recognized that work is still being done on the road at least there should be reflectors for when persons have to drive at nights. Also, they should have a board with the daily openings of the bridge. Even though the schedule is published in the papers they still need to have it on the bridge so when persons cross in the mornings they would know what time to cross back instead of wasting time waiting for the bridge to reopen. Besides, not everyone reads the newspapers and may very well miss the schedule. Another thing is that the toll is too high and people who have to cross every day would not afford to use the bridge. I think the toll should be lowered so more vehicles would make use of the service and as such the bridge company would still generate a lot of revenue. I would also like to see workers planting up flowers in the vicinity of the bridge to make it look attractive.’

20090112mohamedMohamed Fudadin, pensioner

‘The bridge is a plus for Berbice and it is indeed really welcome. It is a long awaited project and most people are happy about it. It is saving a lot of time and I feel that the price is fair. I am visiting from Canada and I am glad that I do not have to spend hours waiting to cross with the ferry because there the drivers would pay the guys some money and you are still stuck there. I love the bridge; I know it is in the teething stage and everything cannot go smoothly right away but once it is completed everything would be fine.’

20090112natashaNatasha Sulker, US-based resident

‘The bridge is nice because we can get across in about three minutes but when it opens [for testing and marine traffic], it sucks – it takes too long to close back. I also think the fare is too high for the ordinary people; they cannot afford to travel because the cost of living is already very high. I don’t see how this bridge can increase fares because with the high toll that the goods vehicles have to pay the owners would definitely increase their prices for basic commodities. A lot of people who would have liked to use the bridge have to continue to use the ferry which is very unreliable. Persons have to pay $500 short drop to New Amsterdam while from Georgetown to New Amsterdam drivers hiked their fare by $300 more. The toll is ridiculous and some systems should be put in place so the short drop vehicles can pay less and they would charge the passengers cheaper.’

20090112leonLeon Suseran, teacher

`I, too, was skeptical about the fares and such of the Bridge, but it was not until I used the bridge sometime last week to go to the airport did I realize how important and vital a link it is to Berbice with the rest of Guyana. I couldn’t believe when I arrived back home in East Berbice just nearing two hours after I left the Airport that day. That never happened before in my entire life. Trips to the airport and back home always used to last somewhere near ten to twelve hours if not more. That day I went to the airport and back in a matter of five to six hours. Berbicians and Guyanese must become aware of how much time will be saved if they use the bridge. The tolls, as I’ve become to understand, are not that high when compared to using the ferry. Some people can be so negative in criticizing everything the government does to help. They wanted a bridge; now that they bridge is here, they’re finding faults left, right and centre. Can people ever be satisfied?’

20090112darsanDharmendra Darsan, West Berbice businessman

‘I am glad for the bridge because it is very convenient. I think it is better than using the ferry because it saves a lot of time. I am doing a small business where I buy and sell cows and I have to go to the Corentyne often. The only thing is that I use a canter truck to transport the animals and I only pay $3,200 to cross the canter but when I start using the bridge I would have to pay $13,000. That is not fair; I cannot afford that and I would run at a loss. I don’t see why they have to charge so much more, especially since they said they want to compare the price with what was being charged by the ferry. That is a big difference!’

20090112nevilleNeville Parsaram, electrician

‘I admit that the bridge has helped to save a lot of time. But I think the government has technically strangled the travelling public in Berbice by stopping the small vehicles from travelling with the ferry. I think people should be free to cross however they want. When the bridge is retracted for ships or testing, the small vehicles should be free to join the ferry if it is available. But they are being forced to use the bridge against their will. I know the bridge company has to make back the money they invested but more vehicles would cross if the toll is lowered. As far as I know many people [foot passengers] did not like the unreliable ferry service and were eager for the bridge to be completed. However, many persons who travel daily, especially the workers and school children said they cannot afford to use the bridge. They still have to spend a long time at the stellings but they said they have no choice but to wait. The fares increase but people’s salaries have not increased.’

20090112halleyL. Halley, consultant/supervisor

‘My concern is that while the bridge is convenient government erred in not putting two toll gates so money could be collected from both sides; I also think that is causing a problem for passengers. Pensioners cannot afford to use the 5% increase to go across the bridge. I feel that when the bridge is opened passengers must have a choice if they want to travel with the ferry. However I know the ferry is not reliable; right now only one boat is working and many trucks are left stranded and drivers who come from far have to sleep at the stellings.’

20090112jagmattieJagmattie Sahadeo, pensioner

“To be honest since the day the bridge was opened I walked across it and back but I did not have the cause to use it as yet. I was extremely happy and excited about the bridge that day especially since me and a lot more persons took the opportunity to follow the president and the ministers when they started to walk. It was a marvelous feeling; I felt like I went to America and back and I really enjoyed myself. A relative called me to find out where I was and I told her [jokingly] not to bother me because I was walking over the bridge; it was my only chance. It was a nice experience for me and of course good exercise. I heard people saying that the cost to use the bridge is too high and the buses charging a high fare. If I have to go to the Corentyne I would use the bridge. But if I have to go to New Amsterdam for shopping I would go with the boat because it would be cheaper and easier for me although I know I may have to wait a while. The cars have to take passengers first to the Rosignol stelling and then they have to board another vehicle to go across the bridge.’

20090112maxwellMaxwell Semple, President of East Berbice Hire Car Association

‘We are indeed thankful for the Berbice Bridge because we have free access to Georgetown and we get there in a much faster time than with the ferry. However I think it is not fair for the cars and the minibuses to pay the same toll of $2200. The buses can carry 15 passengers and the cars can only take four. A lot of people have to use the boat to cross even though they would prefer to use the bridge but they cannot afford to do so. But when they miss the ferry they have to pay $400 and $500 with a minibus to cross the bridge. I am asking that some systems can be put in place where a cheaper rate can be worked out for the hire cars.’

20090112ramsook Ramsook Ramdeo, owner of single wheel canter truck

`I am from the East Coast and I do a business to transport scrap iron from Berbice. I pay $3600 to cross on the ferry return. But to use the bridge I would have to pay over $7000. That is very costly and I cannot afford it. The ferry is a long wait but I have no choice but to wait. I guess when they set the toll for the bridge they didn’t cater for the small man like me. I also think it was unfair for the government to stop the small vehicles from using the ferry.’

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