Berbice commuters fume over ‘exploitation’ by hire car drivers

Commuters travelling between New Amsterdam (NA), Berbice and Georgetown are complaining that hire car drivers who ply the route are exploiting them by increasing their fares from $1,500 to $2,000 during afternoon hours.

Up to Monday afternoon, travellers were lined up at the Berbice car park in NA waiting on transportation to head to the city, only to be told that the fare was $2000.

According to one driver, the fare is normally raised after 1pm each day because when they go to Georgetown, there are sometimes not enough passengers for the return trip to NA to cover their operational cost. Others said the increase is only applied after 6pm.

The $2,000 fare is charged by 95% of drivers. One of the drivers, who does not increase his fare, said, “I don’t exploit people” but noted that “if is late at night and I ain’t get wuk to go down, I gone charge a lil increase, yeah….”

When asked how long the afternoon fare increase has been in effect, drivers stated that it has been occurring for a “long time now.”

But passengers lamented that drivers only pay the bridge toll when they are travelling from Georgetown and not when they are returning, so the increase in fare boosts the amount of money operators earn at the expense of commuters.

Some passengers recalled that the fare increased from $1,300 last year to $1,500 in the early part of this year. They, however, could not explain why the fare was raised from $1,300 to $1,500 and neither could drivers, who claimed “that ($1500) is the fare long,” when asked.

One passenger complained that there was no increase in gas prices recently so he was puzzled as to why the fares are climbing.

The passenger added that there was no notice in the media informing persons that the fare would be increased, so it seemed like a situation where drivers decided unilaterally what they want to charge for the trip.

As a result of the situation, commuters who spoke with this newspaper said they want authorities to investigate.

When contacted yesterday, representative of the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Derrick Cummings stated that the ministry will look into the issue. He added that the ministry has never been involved in the fixing of fares for hire cars but noted that it will bring the issue to the attention of the National Taxi Association and the relevant authorities such as the police force, with which it has a close relationship.

On Monday, the Berbice car park at NA was one filled with angry commuters who complained about the exploitation by drivers. As the cars pulled up, each of the drivers maintained the $2,000 price while increasingly irate travellers used words such as “ridiculous” and “greedy” to describe the situation. A few passengers opted to travel despite the fare rise but others just stood their ground, waiting on operators who were willing to transport them for less.

Another passenger, who was heading to town on Monday, said she was going to pay the extra $500 but when she asked the driver if she will be dropped off in front of her yard, he stated he could not go through her street but would drop her at the “street head.” She asked, “Why I must pay $500 more and he ain’t dropping me home? So he want I take a taxi and pay another set of money when I done paying extra?”

Based on this newspaper’s observations at both the Berbice car parks in NA and Georgetown, some drivers also charge commuters extra for their luggage.

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