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Opposition questions new public transport plans

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Opposition questions new public transport plans

Saturday, February 09, 2019

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OPPOSITION spokesman on transport, Mikael Phillips says portfolio Minister Robert Montague should outline details on the operationalisation of the plans he announced for the public transportation sector on Thursday.

“Has a national transport plan been done for the country? If that has not been done, then how is it that he comes up with these things?” questioned Phillips. “This sounds like a plan that he has come up with, hoping that it will work,” Phillips told the Jamaica Observer.

He reiterated that the public transportation sector needs a comprehensive policy, and is particularly concerned about the proposal to abandon board approval for new public passenger vehicle (PPV) licences.

Speaking at a high-level transport sector conference at Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingson Thursday, Montague announced a slew of new initiatives to stakleholders, which he said are aimed at improving both the image and operations of the sector.

Among Montague’s announcements was that as of April 1 applications for new PPV licences will no longer have to go to the board of the Transport Authority for approval.

He said regional managers should be allowed to use their authority to approve licences. “I don’t elect a board to do that; I elect a board to deal with policy and improve the performance of the agency and let the regional managers become real regional managers,” Montague stated.

Phillips believes, however, this may not be a prudent arrangement. “I would need to know what are the checks and balances, and because of how we have seen the system work, I am not comfortable knowing that it is left to the parish managers alone. I would have preferred that it is done at a central location, which is at the head office”.

The Opposition spokesman also questioned whether the minister had properly thought out the requirement for operators to install GPS trackers on their units before they can obtain a licence. “This is an additional cost. What really needs to happen is enforcement of the law that is out there. How are you going to enforce that when you can’t enforce the current law that you have?” he asked.

As of May new PPV applications will be taken for road licences, following on the opening up of several new routes last year. According to the minister, between September and November last year 11,000 applicants came forward out of an estimated 22,000. Out of those, less than 200 were new to the system, with most coming forward to regularise their operations.

Routes in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region (KMTR) are off the table for now. However, as discussions continue with the State-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company, which still has more than 200 sub-franchises available, a new policy will allow operators to apply for a change of route within six months of receiving a route licence.

This, too, has not found favour with the Opposition spokesman. “For a man to be able to have a licence and six months after he wants to change the route, then what would result when you approve a new route if you have a certain amount on the route already? You [have to] give the amount of licences based on the shortfall that you have on each route. We have seen the chaos in the KMTR with the additional hackney carriage licences that he (minister) has given out,” he pointed out.

Operators will receive a 30 per cent discount on their new licences.

The transport minister also wants to allow operators to design their own routes, but this has to await the ongoing amendments to the Transport Authority Act. He said that all bus routes will be protected and that the authority will consult with transport associations which the new route will affect.

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