Minister of State Joseph Harmon made the announcement after government so far failed to persuade the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BCCI) to slash the toll. He said government would provide the infrastructure and regulatory framework for the privately-owned water taxis to ply. “Cabinet gave the green light primarily to allow for the students and the elderly who are affected in larger measure by the refusal of the Berbice Bridge Company Inc for the lowering of the toll,” he said.
Speaking with Demerara Waves Online News ahead of Monday’s meeting with representatives of the Berbice, Upper Corentyne and West Berbice Chambers of Commerce; Rajnauth was confident that persons living closer to the Rosignol and Blairmont stellings would use the water taxis that would be similar to those that serve the Georgetown- Vreed-en-Hoop route. He hoped that the introduction of the water taxi system would eventually persuade the Berbice Bridge authorities to reduce the toll. “If you have a service that brings the rates down and Berbicians can see that maybe they have another option that maybe it will take a little more but they know they will save a lot and then maybe that might be another way of sending a message to the Bridge Committee to let them come to realize that you just can’t call the shots and people will dance to their music,” he said.
At the same time Rajnauth was worried that commuters using the river taxi service would eventually be asked to pay higher fares if fuel and maintenance costs rise.
The President of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce, however, said that ultimately he would like to see the toll lowered to GUY$1,000 for cars crossing the Berbice Bridge in the hope that the passenger fares would be reduced from GUY$300 to GUY$200. “A reduction of the bridge toll would benefit everybody, I think, and that is what we really need and what we are looking forward for,” he said.
Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson told Demerara Waves Online News that the Maritime Administration (MARAD) has recommended a fare structure for the water taxis, but he declined to provide details. Privately-owned boats charge GUY$100 on the Georgetown- Vreed-en-Hoop route.
In the interest of providing lower fares to commuters, Rajnauth favours government buying out the bridge and setting a toll structure that is similar to the one at the Demerara Harbour Bridge. “That would be one of the best things I think,” he said.
Earlier this week, President David Granger said government had not considered the option of taking control of the bridge. “That is not on the table at the present time but it is our view that the level of the toll is unbearable for the residents of East Berbice-Corentyne and we will take any reasonable legal step to make sure that that toll is lowered,” he has said.