(Jamaica Gleaner) Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies says the public transportation sector is teetering on the brink of a collapse and requires a fare increase to prevent its demise.
“The administration recognises that given when the last fare increase took place, the sector is bordering on collapse. The changes in price, the exchange rate and the price of fuel; it’s impossible for the fares of three years ago to make economic sense,” Davies declared yesterday while opening the Sectoral Debate in Parliament.
However, his opposition counterpart, Karl Samuda, has strongly rejected the notion of a fare increase for the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC).
In his contribution to the Sectoral Debate, Samuda highlighted what he said was the inefficient manner in which the JUTC was being managed and indicated it should therefore be denied a fare hike.
Samuda pointed out that other operators in the sector, including taxi and bus owners, should be granted a fare increase.
Noting that the company had failed to make good on improvements promised last year, the opposition spokesman said the JUTC’s operations have severely deteriorated.
“Despite getting 50 new buses which brought the fleet up to 474, as recently as this month only 250 buses were fit to go on the road instead of at least 380,” he said.
He noted that a shortage of 130 buses translates into a daily loss of about $3.25 million or approximately $1 billion per year.
The state-owned bus company also reportedly paid 195,000 hours of overtime last year, costing $104 million. Double time amounting to $27.3 million was also paid for 44,260 hours.
At the same time, Samuda accused the JUTC of paying drivers $242 million more than they should based on the hours required to work. He said drivers who were paid to work eight hours per day end up completing an average 5.6 hours per day.
“This is 30 per cent less of a total payroll of $805 million which is an excess cost of $242 million.”