The Public Infrastructure Ministry could move to discontinue the services of the Berbice River Taxi, if an analysis to be carried out by the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD), finds that its operation is not feasible.
Minister within the Ministry, Annette Ferguson, on Wednesday said she recently mandated the T&HD to carry out an analysis of the river taxi service, following which government will make a decision on whether or not it should be retained.
Government implemented the Berbice River taxi service in September last year, after it failed in its attempt to reach an agreement with the directors of the Bridge Company to see a small reduction of the toll.
Government had said it was seeking to introduce a more feasible system, which would see residents, particularly students and the elderly relieved of the financial burden. The operation of the bridge company had become burdensome particularly for vehicle owners, students and the elderly.
After weeks of deadlock between Government and the Bridge Company, the latter finally came to an agreement, accepting Government’s proposal that it would provide a $40 million subsidy.
Prior to reaching the agreement, bondholders of BBCI were asked to accept the lowering of interest rates and the significant extension of the repayment period on their investment in order to facilitate the reduction of tolls.
The new tolls have seen private/hire cars, and minibuses paying $1900 compared to $2200 they were required to pay. Other types of vehicles were given a reduction of 10 per cent.
Ferguson was quoted in today’s Guyana Times as saying: “I don’t have the figures on hand but just recently, I have mandated the management of the Transport and Harbours Department to give an analysis of the operation. I hope that before the end of this week I receive it.”
She pointed out that while government is subsidising the bridge operation, the T&HD is offsetting fuel expenses. This, she noted, is what led to a decision to analyse the situation to determine if it is feasible to retain the services of the river taxis.
Meanwhile, minibus drivers have already complained about the financial strain they are experiencing because of the continued operation of the taxi service, although prices for the use of the Bridge have been reduced. She said since the last meeting with drivers, herself and Minister David Patterson earlier this year, she has not been able to deal specifically with the issues raised by drivers.