Commuters crossing the Berbice River Bridge with SUVs, pick-ups and trucks have been enjoying a reduction in toll charges from March 1 following an intervention by the three Chambers of Commerce in Region Six.

Since the opening of the bridge on December 23, 2008 commuters had complained that the prices were too steep and this led to a meeting with the members of the three Chambers and the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) on February 20.

Yesterday, members of the Chambers received a letter from the Chief Executive Officer of BBCI, Omadatt Samaroo with instructions about the “amended toll” that took effect a few days earlier.

Vehicles such as RAV 4, Suzuki Vitara and other SUVs which now fall under the category of cars and minibuses are paying the same toll charges of $2,200 instead of $4,000.

The charges for Tundras, Prados and similar vehicles have been reduced from $7,600 to $4,000. The weight system for smaller trucks up to 4,000 kg has been changed and this class of vehicle is also now being charged $4,000.

The Chambers have been advised that the price for medium trucks weighing 4,001 kg to 8,000 kg is now $7,600 while larger trucks that weigh 8,001 kg to 14,000 kg now pay $13,000.

The Chambers requested the meeting with the bridge company after they saw the toll as a deterrent to a greater volume of vehicular traffic.

The representatives of the business community in the region were optimistic that there would have been adjustments on the current toll structure following what they described as a “very cordial and meaningful” discussion with officials of the BBCI, including Vice Chairman Bert Carter, CEO Samaroo and Director Paul Cheong.

In a release issued by the chamber, the officials had promised to take the Chambers’ recommendations as early as possible to the Bridge’s Board of Directors “for discussions and possible implementation in the very near future.”

The Chambers also noted that while they welcome the advent of the Berbice Bridge, in view of the relatively low toll charges for minibuses they expressed concern at the high fares being charged for passengers, especially schoolchildren and ordinary workers just to cross the bridge.

At a press conference in early January, President Bharrat Jagdeo had said the government was not contemplating reducing the tolls for vehicles to cross the bridge.

The President said that as far as he was aware, most commuters had no problems paying the rates.

He said that especially for private cars and minibus operators crossing the river using the bridge, the one-time toll of $2,200 toll was cheap. He said that minibus operators would especially benefit from this. The President pointed out that if a minibus had to use the ferry, it would be charged $800 for each leg of the trip in addition to charges that the operator would have to pay on the number of passengers in the bus. This, the President said would often amount to more than $2,200

Further, Jagdeo said that those who were complaining about the toll had to be reasonable.

He said that it was more cost effective than when using the ferries. He admitted that it would be mainly those commuters who crossed the bridge using four-wheel drive vehicles that may feel hard done by the charges, but he suggested that these people would have to traverse the bridge using cheaper options-such as cars.