Crockwell outlines new bus schedule plans
Problems within the Department of Public Transport featured strongly as Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell delivered his budget brief yesterday.
Mr Crockwell said Government hopes to introduce a new bus schedule this summer — the first new schedule in more than a decade — which will both reduce overtime and protect jobs. While some routes stop at Barnes Corner or Grotto Bay on the existing schedule, the new schedule would have the buses continue on to Dockyard and St George's respectively. The proposed schedule would also expand the number of cover operators, which would in turn reduce overtime.
The Minister also said discussions were under way with the Public Works department about making repairs to the Transport Department offices on Palmetto Road this year, saying: “There are way too many leaks there causing mould and an unpleasant working environment.”
Shadow Transport Minister Lawrence Scott asked what would be done about the staff toilet facilities at the St George's depot. Owing to severe lack of facilities staff members are forced to use the toilets in the rest home nearby.
A number of other grievances were mentioned including security at bus terminals and the protection of bus staff from violent and abusive members of the public. He suggested that harsher fines be introduced for offenders.
Speaking generally on the Department of Public Transport Mr Crockwell said: “This is a 20 year old problem. There have been attempts to remediate problems but they seem to persist. These are valid concerns we will certainly address them this year.”
On tourism, Mr Crockwell said that more than 370,000 visitors are expected to arrive on the Island by cruise ship in the 2015/16 year, providing the local economy with around $90 million. He said the Department is still working to bring smaller cruise ships to St George's and Hamilton, adding that discussions are under way to bring additional cruises for the America's Cup in 2017.
While he noted that air arrivals had “softened” with several airlines adjusting their winter schedules based on demand, the Island has managed to maintain steady levels of service to gateway destinations and said there will be an anticipated revival of flights as the America's Cup approaches and hotel developments move forward.
In the area of ferry service, he noted that the Millenium has again been leased to help bring visitors from Dockyard to St George's and reduce pressure on the ageing fleet. He also said that several changes are being investigated to improve cost efficiency.
He said both the Civil Aviation and Maritime Administration sections are being examined to find ways to allow the sections to build their respective registries, saying their current model inhibits growth.
However he added that while the number of aircraft registered on the Island has steadily risen over the years, a downturn in the Russian economy could slow that growth.
The issue of the airport was raised with Mr Scott questioning the Government trusting a company [the Canadian Commercial Corporation] that had “governance issues” while being a major arms dealer. Mr Crockwell hit back saying: “The arms industry is one of the oldest industries the world. When you look at trading of arms in terms of military purposes it is a $1.5 trillion industry. US is one of the largest in the world as is the UK. It doesn't come down to whether you sell arms, it's an issue of who you sell arms to.
Does the honorable member have some evidence that they have broken any laws?”
Mr Crockwel,l meanwhile, noted that the grant funding the Road Safety Council had received a “drastic cut”, but said the Bermuda Police Service's comprehensive safety strategy would help to mitigate the impact.
Mr Lawrence Scott reiterated is desire to see road side checkpoints added to Government's plan for roadside sobriety testing saying the practice help “change the minset”. He also said he hoped all the measures would be in place in time for the America's Cup and the expected “celebrations and libations”.
Mr Scott also suggested bringing the Motorcar Act up to date so legislation considers the use of bluetooth.
Regarding the Transport Control Department, he noted that three clerks had been moved into the administration section to fill empty positions, which will likely lead to longer waits for customers.