Berbicians welcome gov’t takeover of Berbice bridge

The Berbice Bridge

Berbicians have welcomed the government’s announcement yesterday that it had assumed temporary control of the Berbice River bridge.

While drivers were unaware of the move yesterday when Stabroek News visited the various bus and car parks in Region Six, in unison they welcomed the move in the face of planned hikes in tolls.

Although the drivers were reluctant to go on record, one explained that he believes the government will ensure that the citizens of the county are not affected. The driver, who operates the Rosignol to New Amsterdam route, said, “I think the government gon’ think about us, the people, and deal with the matter because the bridge [company] na really care for the drivers.”

Last month, immediately after the announcement of the proposed hike in the Berbice Bridge tolls, Denis Chesney, 68, who is President of the 56 Minibus Association, had called for the government to take over the bridge.

He had said, “I feel the government should take away the bridge and run the bridge… I don’t think government should subsidise the price because they got teachers to deal with, nurses to deal with, then them got other things, soldier gon’ come up and them building infrastructure all over the place. How much this government can do?”

Meanwhile, Berbicians remain outraged over the proposed toll hikes, as they continue to call on government to ensure that it does not become effective on November 12th.

One vendor at the New Amsterdam Market said, “I think this is the right thing because the government gon know what to do.”

A hire car driver, who operates along the Canje route, also welcomed the takeover yesterday. After Stabroek News explained the takeover, the man said, “Well girl, I think it should be permanent.”

Meanwhile, Stabroek News visited the Berbice Bridge yesterday morning and staff present seemed unaware of the temporary takeover by the government of Guyana.

This newspaper was told that the person in charge was away at a meeting in Georgetown but that business was going on as normal, since no new instructions were passed on to any of the staff.

The Government of Guyana yesterday morning announced the takeover, citing a “threat to public safety.”

“…in accordance with the powers conferred upon the Minister by Sections 4 (1) and 11 of the Berbice River Bridge Act, in the interests of public safety, the Minister issued (today) an Order declaring that the functions of the Concessionaire to maintain and operate the Bridge shall be exercised by the Government of Guyana as of 5th November 2018 until the date the Minister specifies by notice on the cessation of the threat to public safety,” the Ministry of Public Infrastructure said in a statement.

The government gave the assurance that it will do everything in its power to alleviate disruption to the public and ensure that the assumption of the functions is as smooth as possible. “The truth is, too many of our citizens are dependent on the continuous operations and use of the Berbice Bridge and we should not allow anyone to unreasonably and capriciously endanger their livelihood and public order in one of our vital regions. The Ministry of Public Infrastructure would like to assure the citizens of Berbice and the public in general on behalf of the Government of Guyana that there will be no change to the present toll structure and all exemptions presently in place will remain in effect,” the statement further read

Additionally, according to the statement, there will be no change to the staffing complement, contractors and suppliers as we transition into this new and hopefully temporary arrangement, and dialogue will continue with the bridge company in expectation of an amicable resolution to the dispute.

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