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Hire car, bus drivers refuse to reduce fares despite Berbice Bridge toll reductions

Hire-car and mini-bus drivers say “nah” to a reduction is fares across the Berbice Bridge despite the proposed reduction in toll.

Persons looking to cross the Berbice Bridge via mini-bus and hire-car may not be seeing the reduction in transportation fares this year as envisaged by government when it decided to spearhead the reduction of the bridge’s tolls.

Persons who cross the bridge via mini-bus, however, stand a better chance of seeing the fares reduced.

Presenting highlights of Budget 2015 on August 10th, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan announced that the toll for buses and cars will be reduced from $2,200 to $1,900, and that the toll for all other categories will be reduced by 10 percent once Budget 2015 is passed.

During his presentation Jordan said that government has “heard the cries of the people,” and that “the lives of the citizens of Regions 5 and 6, and indeed all Guyanese who travel to the Ancient County, will be improved as a result of the implementation of the first of a phased reduction in the Berbice Bridge Toll.”

driver conraddoverCurrently, it costs $1,500 to cross the Berbice Brige with a hire car and $1,200 to cross the bridge by mini-bus.

At least one hire-car driver says that he and other hire-car drivers who operate the route will “strike” if government attempts to reduce fares charged by taxi drivers to take passengers across the Berbice River.

“The fare remains the same…if the government drops the fare the cars gon strike,” says 58 year-old hire-car driver Morris Joseph who resides in New Amsterdam.

Speaking to Demerara Waves Onlines News on Monday, Joseph said “$1,900 to cross the Berbice River Bridge is still pressure, especially with the hire-cars…lowering the fare by $300 ain’t mek no sense.”

Joseph said that government needs to consider addressing other factors before thinking about asking hire-car drivers to lower their fares. “Yuh find that spare-parts now climbing steady…I buy a pair of shacks for this car hey; I pay $80,000 for it, for a pair of Monroe shocks…I buy for the front alone. When the back ready the back might be another $80,000 or more, suh they gotta look into this thing,” Joseph related.

He also said that gas prices, even at the government-owned GUYOIL, remains relatively high despite promises by the former administration to keep the price low. On Wednesday afternoon, Jordan announced that prices for gasoline and diesel have been decreased with immediate effect. The new price per liter of gasoline is $168.00, down from $174.70, while the new price for diesel is $199.00, down from $210.00.

Jordan expressed hopes that this “pro poor measure” will trickle down to ordinary people including school children. The new figures represent a decrease of $6.70 per liter in the case of gasoline and a decrease of $11.00 per liter in the case of diesel.

driver ronnelhinchleyIt is unclear how the hire-car drivers will react to the news of this reduction, but Joseph said on Monday that lowering the toll to $1,500 would have been better, and that hire-car drivers would be more open to lowering their fares if the toll came down to this amount. “That’s a good price, we could work with that,” he said.

Not because the bridge toll drop the fare must drop, they gotta look at other things and weigh it up,” the man concluded.

Another hire-care driver, 28-year-old Ronnel Hinchley of Corentyne, said “I think is not bad, at least it drop, but they still could have done better especially for the cars, cause if you check it a bus carrying 15 passengers and they gon pay the same $1,900. Cars carrying only four passengers and the car price is only like a $400 difference from the bus price.”

Hinchley thinks “the toll should have been $1,100 or something.” He explained that “…passengers are looking for the fare drop too, because the bridge drop, but is just $300 dollars.” He said that “even if we drop the fare to $1,400 dollars we still would lose $100 dollars.”

Asked if he would agree to a reduction in the $1,500 fare with the current toll reduction, Hincheley said “nah…yuh would be killing the drivers.”

“You might seh that yuh mek and extra $300; you know $300 aint no bog money…but if it had come down (more) now, at least we could have come down on the passengers to $1,300 back, cause it was $1,300 before.”

Noting that government may further reduce the toll next year, the man said “leh the fare remain as is and next year yuh can do something.” He also said that “if the gas price could drop down then we could go down cause it gon be that if we aint lose the passengers aint gon lose.”

Another hire-car driver, 50-year-old Conrad Dover, believes the toll should be reduced to $1,000 because “it is still too high.” The man said that “when you really look at it, $300 aint mek no sense…$1,500 or $1,200 would be far better because you wukkin from Georgetown to New Amsterdam and the fare is $1,500, suh when you calculate it and you driving somebody car, $300 ain’t mek no difference.”

“if the government or anybody want the fare to reduce for hire-car I think the toll gotta go down like $1,driver morrisjoseph000, that the only way.” He said that if government pushed for hire-cars to reduce their fares with tolls at the proposed level “it would affect us because we ain’t mekkin no kind of money in the long run.”

A mini-bus operator who traverses the route, Gergory Andrews, noted that “$300 dollar can go a long way, $300 can buy you an eddo and salt fish.” He believes that government “did what they can do” and that “maybe next year they gonna look at it again and do something else.”

Asked if bus drivers are willing to decrease their fares though, the man said that will depend in gas prices. “If the gas comes down a little bit maybe we could see with the customers,” the man said.

The unlikelihood of a reduction transportation fares to cross the bridge was pointed in the National Assembly on Thursday by Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) Member of Parliament, Juan Edghill, who argued that only the drivers of the vehicles will benefit from the reduction and that the operators “ain’t dropping no fares.”

 
He recallled that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) government had indexed the Berbice Bridge tolls to the cost of crossing the river with the ferry service and so “there was no increase.” He chastised government for back-peddling on its pledge contained in a then opposition APNU+AFC-approved motion to slash the toll by GUY$1,000 dollars and now cutting it only by GUY$300-a rate that would only benefit the vehicle owners rather than the masses. “You know who will benefit, only the owners of the vehicles … The ordinary man who has to travel in that bus will not benefit,” said Edghill, adding that “the buses and the taxi drivers ain’t dropping no fare… All that is, Sir, is gimmickry.”