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Govt takes over Berbice Bridge temporarily; tolls to remain the same

The Guyana government on Monday temporarily took over maintenance and operations of the Berbice River Bridge, under what it says are provisions of the law governing that thoroughfare and that the tolls would remain the same.

“Therefore, 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,”  Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson said.

Patterson did not entertain questions from the media on his decision.

Ahead of plans by the Berbice Bridge Company to increase tolls by 360 percent from November 12, 2018, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure “said there will be no change to the present toll structure and all exemptions presently in place will remain in effect.” “Equally, there will be no change to the staffing complement, contractors and suppliers as we transition into this new and hopefully temporary arrangement,” he added.

Government’s announcement came one day after the Berbice Bridge Company released correspondence to the Minister of Public Infrastructure that it is asking for a 19-year extension of the concession agreement to prevent an increase in tolls. Patterson said the Guyana government and the BBCI would continue talks to find an “amicable” resolution to the dispute, but that process could take a long time.

“On the basis of correspondence between both sides as recently as over the past few days, we do not envision a swift resolution to this crisis,” he said.

“We have stated publicly that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the Government of Guyana cannot support the unreasonable demand for an increase in toll on the public which is based on a flawed formula and computation.

The 39 pontoons have not been replaced since the bridge began operations in December, 2008.