The mounting gas prices around the country spurred picketing action by bus drivers and conductors from Route 42 (Timehri/Georgetown) who are pleading with the authorities to grant them an increase of $20 on their fares.
Over a dozen drivers and conductors gathered outside the Ministry of Business’ office on South Road early yesterday morning, armed with placards highlighting their current plight.
The drivers explained that despite the constant fluctuations in the price of gas, the bus fare has not been increased in a decade, which they say is unfair, considering the fact that the price of almost everything, including car parts, has increased over the same period, without any hint of decreasing.
“My concern is about the fare. It is very unreasonable because for the past two years a lot of things have raised including the prices of tyres. The tyre I used to buy used to cost $5,000 for one, and now I paying $10,000 for one if I lucky. Normally the price would be about $15,000. Recently the gas price gone up. The other day it was $200 and it went up to $205 and it drop back and now it at $230. It is very costly,” James Anthony, a bus driver who has been servicing the route for more than five years explained.
Currently, the prices range between $60, $80 and $100 for drops from the Stabroek Square to Providence, Herstelling and Grove, respectively. Other buses which traverse further than Grove and reach as far as Soesdyke and Timehri are also calling for there to be an increase in the fares.
“All we asking for is an increase of $20. For ten years it ain’t change. All them Ministries and government offices does get a raise of pay ever year and for ten years it at one thing for we. Just $20 we asking for, how much is that?” Anthony explained.
Amir Khan, one of the bus drivers, says that he has been plying his trade on the roads of the country for more than three decades, and in addition to the exorbitant gas prices and its sporadic changes, their expenses increase due to the poor management of roads and facilities, especially at the Stabroek Square where the base of their operations are located.
“We does pay money to the city to fix the park and nothing don’t happen. The hole them so deep that you whole bus could fit in and it breaking up people lights. Every time you drop in those holes you does break up a light or damage you tyres. So we does end up having to spend a whole set of money to repair the bus plus to pay the increase in gas price but we fare not increasing,” Khan explained.
The man added that they have tried to propose the new fares to customers but they are always met with deaf ears.
“The consumer amendment act we had in 1987 said that the country is ruled under free trade. It means that there is no control over nothing under the new amended act, but somewhere along the line we are getting a hard time to get the extra $20. Gas prices went up and by rights I think $20 is quite reasonable,” another driver said.
The bus drivers explained that they are hoping the government or the relevant ministries can endorse their request to have an increased fare, which they said “is only fair”.
“We went to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and then we were sent to the Ministry of Business now we are being sent to Sophia. We are being pushed around and we just want to sit and talk with someone about this issue,” another driver said.