The Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) will be spending some $20 million to construct two speedboats to replace the two privately-owned vessels that are currently operating the Berbice River crossing.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Annette Ferguson, when questioned on the current status of the Berbice River taxis on Tuesday at a press conference, said, “As far as I am aware, it is going fine despite some challenges we had and we were able to have them addressed effectively.”
Recalling the reason for the implementation of the river taxis, Ferguson explained that the government had made the decision in order to bring relief to school children and the elderly. “…Because you know we had the whole contention with the bridge toll in Berbice, hence the introduction of the speedboats,” Ferguson pointed out.
She then stated that in a budgetary allocation the government has designated some $20 million to construct two new speedboats that will replace the current ones, which are privately owned, to ply the Berbice River and continue the river taxi operations. T&HD is currently sourcing boat builders to construct the two new vessels.
The river taxi operations had started more than a year ago and was greeted with mixed reviews from persons travelling between Regions Five and Six. Bus operators were up in arms and had protested, claiming that the operation was going to drastically decrease the number of customers they had, and in turn, the amount of money they would make by the end of the month.
In November 2015, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson had announced that from September 21, to November 7, 2015, some 62,465 passengers had used the service between New Amsterdam and Rosignol.
He had also stated that the service had exceeded expectations since its implementation. The service had been introduced by the government after the failure to reach an agreement with Berbice Bridge Inc on the lowering of tolls.
After the furore that was raised by the bus drivers in December 2015, Patterson had stated that it was “unlikely” that the service would cease even if there was a reduction in the Berbice Bridge toll in the new year.
Patterson had told Stabroek News yesterday that feedback from the business community of New Amsterdam has “indicated that since the introduction of the water taxis they have experienced marked improvement in their business and have indicated that they would like the same to continue.”
As a stimulus initiative the government will be inclined to continue the water taxis to work in conjunction with the bridge.