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Bus timetable finally agreed

Bus services will be improved, and overtime for drivers reduced, after the Bermuda Government and the Bermuda Industrial Union finally agreed on a new schedule.

After years of dialogue, transport minister Shawn Crockwell said the union and the Department of Public Transport have come to an agreement on the timetable which will be in place this summer.

Mr Crockwell told The Royal Gazette: “I know they are still working on the winter component of it, but in terms of the summer, which was the most contentious part, I have been advised that all parties are in agreement with the new summer schedule.

“We actually came to an agreement at the beginning of summer last year, but because we had already started the summer schedule we didn't want to disrupt it with a new schedule. We will be implementing it this coming summer.”

BIU president Chris Furbert confirmed that a schedule had been approved, saying: “It's something that has been in the making for a long time, but we have come up with something that is workable.

“It's something that has to be tweaked as we go along, but both the management and the unions deserve a hats off.”

There have been numerous efforts to update the schedule, which was first introduced in 1999. In 2005, there was talk of a walkout after an alleged effort by the Government to enforce a new schedule, which would have cut down on breaks and increased night shifts for drivers. Two years later, another proposal ran into challenges because of a reported lack of consultation with drivers.

Another schedule was presented in 2012 after continued dialogue, but the drivers expressed concerns over some elements and did not ratify it.

Over the past 15 years, a “grey schedule” of non-rostered trips have been introduced to help improve service, but the changes reportedly resulted in increased overtime. Last year, Mr Crockwell said that the Government's overtime liability averaged more than $2 million per year, which he described as “simply not sustainable”.

Several previously discussed elements are believed to be included, with routes to Barnes Corner and Grotto Bay extended to Dockyard and St George's respectively.

Asked about the details of the new schedule, Mr Crockwell said: “The basic chromosomes of the schedule that has been knocked about for many years are still there, but there was a give and take with the management of the department and the union. The union put up some ideas that were of value. There was a quid pro quo throughout the process, and I'm happy that happened.

“In due course we will lay it out, and we are hoping that it will have a positive impact. We know that it will have a positive impact on the overtime situation that we have been experiencing.”

Mr Crockwell also said that four more buses will be introduced to the fleet this year, which will help to address the issue of buses being out of service which resulted in up to 40 cancelled trips per week.

“There have been no new buses purchased since 2009, and that has had a major negative impact on the fleet,” he said.

“You end up overusing your older buses, so you can't maintain them as systematically as you would like. We purchased 16 new buses. We will get the final four this year, and we are looking to order some more.

“Despite the austerity measures that are in effect, we need to have new buses come into the fleet.”

He also noted a training initiative at the Department of Public Transport, which he believes will help to improve maintenance of the fleet.

“We brought in a German mechanic consultant who is helping to train the mechanics we have there now, so we really believe that we are setting ourselves up to be able to address the mechanical issues in an effective and expeditious way,” he said.

“Although we are on a tight budget, we still have to provide a service to the community, and as the Ministry of Transport we have an onerous burden to have an efficient, effective and timely public transportation system.”

Minister of Transport Shawn Crockwell

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Published January 09, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated January 09, 2016 at 12:27 am)

Bus timetable finally agreed

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