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Extra school minibus runs added as public buses feel the strain

A minibus with one of Bermuda’s public buses (File photograph)

Extra private bus routes for schools were added on Monday to bail out the public bus system, the Bermuda Minibus Association said yesterday.

Russ Ford, the spokesman for the association, said the group was contacted an hour before the end of school on Monday by the Department of Public Transportation, which needed four more routes added to the 30 being covered by minibuses until the end of the school year in June.

Mr Ford said: “Our understanding is it’s going to get worse.

“Government buses are running so much they don’t have the opportunity to get maintenance.

“Therefore, they’re breaking down and will continue to break down.”

He added: “There was that accident on Monday that has taken another bus off the road.”

The news came as the Government announced 47 bus cancellations at 4pm yesterday.

Mr Ford said DPT buses, which required regular attention, were “falling by the wayside”, and that the association would be happy to take “even more runs”.

An earlier deal between the association and the Ministry of Transport fell through on January 8 after the group rejected an offer of $125 per minibus run.

The Government rejected the association’s price tag of $210 a run.

Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, warned the public to brace for doubled bus cancellations as the fleet made school runs a priority in the mornings and afternoons.

Mr Ford said the association and the Government had struck a deal for minibuses to cover 30 out of the 56 school route at $185 per trip.

He added many operators were breaking even at the $185 per route payment.

Mr Ford said: “The ones who are maybe making a slight profit are those actually driving their own buses.

“If you have to pay a driver, you’re really losing out.”

Minibuses have backed up the public bus service under a series of deals since 2017.

The association at first charged $250 per run, which was cut to $200.

Mr Ford said the BMA had “reluctantly” agreed in September last year to charge $125 per run, which he claimed had caused “a huge deficit for minibus companies, which was a 40 per cent decrease”.

He added drivers had agreed to help for that term, which ended last December.

But he said that the Government had been put on notice that “the price would have to increase, as the previous cost was not financially viable”.

Mr Ford said minibus operators were “insulted” this month when the Government again offered $125.

He added: “The Government knew from October 2020 that this amount would not be accepted.

“The Bermuda Minibus Association is here to assist the people of Bermuda, especially our children, for them to get back in school and be safe.

“All of our drivers have to be vetted, and we provide drivers that are all above board.”

Mr Ford said minibus drivers were unsure how long the DPT fleet could run under the present maintenance schedule, with mechanics getting “straight time instead of double time for overtime”.

He added: “Unfortunately, that’s the situation we’re in.”

The DPT did not respond to a request for comment.

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Published January 28, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 27, 2021 at 7:55 am)

Extra school minibus runs added as public buses feel the strain

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