The Government is being criticised for a decision to double the toll paid by cars and motor cycles to traverse the Demerara Harbour Bridge.
Director of Public Information (DPI) in the office of the Prime Minister, Imran Khan was quoted in the media as saying that motor cars will now pay $200 to cross the bridge, up from the $100 paid previously, while motorcycles will now pay $40. They previously paid $20.
Minibus tolls remained at $200 per crossing.
While it is unclear when the new increases will take effect, some taxi drivers who ply several routes to Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) from the outskirts of Georgetown on Wednesday described the increase as “unreasonable”.
One driver, Moses (only name given) noted that passengers who cross the bridge will be burdened. “It would put pressure on the customer; gas is a next thing… I say like a 20 per cent increase would be better,” he noted.
It was also explained that at present, passengers pay between $500 and $700 to cross the bridge by taxi, but with imminent increases in the tolls and gas, fares could be hiked to as much as $1000.
Petwam Singh, a father of four, operating taxi for over seven years said high maintenance costs, coupled with the increased tolls will pressure both drivers and commuters.
“We traverse 14 to 15 times a day…if you have to take a passenger from this side to the other side for $500, what gas you gonna leff with and [what will be left] for yourself,” he questioned.
“The increase in gas will be worse on us [and] when the tolls increase we [will charge] $1000 and consumers will not feel good [about paying the increase],” Singh further opined.
It was also noted that with the expense of having to purchase new tyres, there should be better maintenance of the roads.
Meanwhile, Aubrey Sanko, a driver for 15 years, indicated that he does not see the problem with the increase, noting that toll hikes are in keeping with “development”.
“I don’t have a problem with the increase… if this is the way it got to be for us to have development or progress, it is okay with me,” Sanko observed.
When asked if he would increase his car fares with the toll increase, the driver maintained that he would not.
Some persons selling around the Harbour Bridge noted that the increase is justified saying that toll has remained the same for many years.
The 37-year-old bridge linking East Bank and West Bank Demerara is accounting for millions of dollars in maintenance costs on a yearly basis. While the Bridge raked in some $519 million in 2015, over $2 billion was allotted for its maintenance between 2010 and 2015. (Reprinted: today’s Guyana Times)