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­Plans to reduce ‘harmful’ bus competition ‘heating up’

Govt looking at public-private partnership to bring order to public transport
  • Glenys Hanna-Martin.

Guardian Business Editor

Published: Oct 09, 2013

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The government is “putting heat” under plans to unify the public bus system, with an updated business plan being created to move the transportation system from one characterized by “damaging and harmful competition” to one that better serves passengers’ needs, the minister of transport has revealed.

Glenys Hanna-Martin, minister of transport and aviation, met yesterday with consultants at Deloitte and Touche who are putting together the plan that will undergird the overhaul.

She called the plan “the most critical and difficult aspect” of the process, involving questions such as valuation of bus franchises.

While Hanna-Martin stressed that the plan has yet to be fully determined, and will only be completed in consultation with those in the

industry, she noted that it will essentially involve the movement of the 500 franchise holders and over 300 buses that currently exist under a single entity most likely organized as a public-private partnership.

“You have hundreds of individuals owners and you have to put on the table what the deal is in terms of how they would transfer their livelihood and ownership to a singular entity and how that would work.

“We haven’t narrowed down a timeline, but we have said we have a very serious problem which is our public transportation system and we now must move forward urgently and expeditiously in consultation with the stakeholders,” said Hanna Martin in an interview with Guardian Business.

The unification of the public bus system is part of the New Providence Road Improvement Program, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, which also involved the upgrading of New Providence’s road network.

Noting that talk of bus system unification has been ongoing for many years, Hanna Martin suggested that the government is now committed to seeing the process through to completion.

Emphasizing that the plan is in early stages, she said it is possible it will involve individual franchise holders becoming shareholders in the new entity.

“We’re of the view that right now the public transportation system is a very profitable one despite its many inefficiencies and we believe under this (singular structure) it would be even more profitable, while at the same time creating rationality.”

Once completed, bus unification should ensure a better passenger experience, with more comprehensive approach to routing, among other issues.

“What we are trying to do now is to create a singular structure, a corporatized structure that brings some orderly coordination. In built into that will be things we are really concerned about, which include good routing; ensuring that we cover areas that are not presently covered because they are not financially beneficial.

“We want a fair system that is efficient and creates ease for passengers, and which eventually involves upgrading the fleet to make it more energy efficient. We want employees who are bus drivers who have no incentive other than the wage that they make,” said Hanna Martin.

Meanwhile, the Minister said that the government will meet on Thursday with bus franchise holders as it seeks to make progress with other issues that plague the bus industry, such as behavior of drivers and safety concerns.

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