New bus schedule scrapped
The new bus schedule is to be scrapped just six weeks after it was introduced, the transport minister revealed yesterday.
Zane DeSilva said the timetable would be ripped up because of complaints about poor service and a lack of rest time for drivers. Canadian company Schedule Masters Inc was paid more than $1.6 million over the past 17 years to create the new bus schedule.
Mr DeSilva said the old schedule will be used from Monday while changes are made to the new one.
He said: “After six weeks of operating the new 2019 bus schedule it has been determined that the change is necessary to thoroughly address concerns with schedule trip times and rest times for bus operators.”
Mr DeSilva added complaints from drivers and the public about the new schedule showed problems with service frequency and a lack of capacity and had forced a change of heart.
He explained: “The reports include inadequate service during morning and afternoon peak times, over and above what was experienced in the previous schedule.”
Mr DeSilva said the Barnes Corner and Grotto Bay routes will be reinstated to provide additional services to and from Hamilton.
He added: “The new schedule did not provide sufficient rest time between trips, presenting health and safety concerns for bus operators and the travelling public and must be addressed immediately.
“This decision was not taken lightly but it is the only recourse to address concerns and safety of our operators and passengers.”
He said adjustments made to the new 2019 schedule were designed to provide extra capacity, but that it required daily co-ordination of unscheduled work that did not tackle rest time for operators.
Mr DeSilva added: “The reassessment process would take several months to complete and it is not anticipated that any further changes will occur prior to September 2019.”
He insisted restoration of the bus fleet was a priority for the Department of Public Transportation.
He said: “Further announcements will be made in due course and the Department of Public Transportation is grateful for your understanding and apologises for any inconvenience”
Leah Scott, the shadow transport minister, said she was pleased that the DPT had decided to reinstate the former schedule.
Ms Scott earlier rubbished claims by Mr DeSilva that the new schedule was working and said that she had been flooded with complaints from constituents.
He said: “I’m pleased that the ministry has listened to the voice of the public. I’m a bit disappointed that it took six weeks, but I’m glad they have listened.”
Ms Scott added people had struggled to get to work or school on time, so going back to the former schedule was the best move.
She said many of the problems with the bus service were financial and that modernisation of the fleet was needed.
Bus users told The Royal Gazette this month that the West End had taken the brunt of shortfalls in the new schedule.
Passengers lined up for the No 7 bus to Somerset yesterday said they were pleased officials had gone back to the drawing board.
A Southampton resident said that “high school kids” could have done a better job on a new timetable.
He added: “I’ve been riding the bus twice a day and have for the last 20-odd years.
“How could these experts in Canada not know that with two cruise ships in Dockyard and this bus covering the whole of the South Shore, that running this bus every half-hour wouldn’t work?”
An Elbow Beach employee said he finished his shift at midnight, but that the No 7 service had finished at 9pm under the new schedule.
He said: “This is a main line for tourists and it’s the beginning of tourist season. So if they’re going back to the old schedule, that’s a very good thing.
“If you’re visiting the island and going out, you’ll be able to stay out longer.”
Mr DeSilva said the closure of two bus stops in Dockyard was a joint decision by the DPT and the West End Development Corporation
He said: “This was something that has been talked about in recent times.
“It was going to happen inevitably, but we decided that we would just bring that forward because the goal is for Wedco to pedestrianize as much of the area as possible.”
He added: “It gives Wedco what they want; to get people mingling among the business owners before they actually get on the bus.
“The other thing that it does, it gives the bus drivers another five to seven minutes of rest time.”