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Minibus services cash in on public bus work-to-rule

Central stop: the Hubert W. “Sparky” Lightbourne Terminal in Hamilton at 3.30pm yesterday

Island minibus drivers said yesterday they were ready to handle increased demand created by bus cancellations.

Menelik Isaac, of Suburban Transit, said that minibus drivers were happy to fill gaps created by disruption to public transport.

He added: “We’re here for everyone. Anything to do with transportation, if we can help, we will.”

Debbie Brown, owner of Exclusive Transportation Services, agreed that minibus drivers could handle an increased demand.

Ms Brown said: “We double up and we carry the lift. We make sure that everybody’s happy and everybody’s moving.”

Bryan Smith, of St George’s & West End Mini Bus Service, said the use of minibuses to replace cancelled bus services would make the situation more “palatable” for the general public.

He added: “We would be willing to help out where we can.”

The operators were speaking to The Royal Gazette at Horseshoe Bay Beach on South Shore yesterday.

The offer of help came amid a work-to-rule by Bermuda Industrial Union public transport members that started last week.

The action led to the suspension of bus services on Monday and major cancellations on Tuesday and yesterday.

Mr Isaac, who has been driving for 20 years, said all minibus drivers were busy on Monday.

He added: “If you ask any of the drivers, on Tuesday they were tired.”

Mr Isaac said his 12-hour work day began at 7.30am. He explained: “If you got a chance to sit down, it was for about 15 minutes.”

He said it was “definitely twice as busy” as a normal holiday.

But he added: “It’s not something that minibuses can’t handle. We can handle the work, it’s just tiring.”

Mr Isaac described Tuesday and Wednesday as “normal” days. He said the majority of his customers were island residents, including summer camp participants, students on field trips, and people going to work.

Ms Brown said she was slightly busier than normal on Tuesday and Wednesday.

But Ms Brown added: “The work-to-rule, to me, is not affecting us in any way, shape or form.”

She said the majority of her business involved transporting tourists “especially from Dockyard”.

Mr Smith said the current situation was the result of “arrogance” by the previous government as well as the present administration. He added: “They don’t want to listen.”

Mr Smith said that the Government should invest in smaller vehicles rather than full-size buses, which make up the bulk of Bermuda’s ageing fleet.

He added: “We can no longer afford that. They brought in two buses ... what has that done to alleviate the cancellation rate? Nothing.”