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Wait finally over for new bus schedule

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Ready to go: Chris Furbert, left, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, Zane DeSilva, Minister of Tourism and Transport, and Roger Todd, director of the Department of Public Transportation, shake hands after Mr DeSilva announced that the new bus schedule will come into force on Monday (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The new bus schedule will come into force on Monday, the transport minister said yesterday.

Zane DeSilva added that the new schedule, which has taken 17 years to produce, will be adjusted over the next 18 months if needed.

He said the schedule was designed to run with 50 buses, out of a potential 80, while the Department of Transport’s ageing fleet is repaired or replaced.

But one bus driver told The Royal Gazette: “It’s all politics. The operators don’t have any control over the politics.

“It doesn’t matter which government is in power, none of them are adding extra buses to the fleet, which is what we really need.

“It’s expensive, but we need new buses. They want to run this schedule with 50 buses. What they are trying to do with the new schedule is to reduce the number of cancellations, and the amount of overtime, so they are running buses every half an hour rather than every 15 minutes.”

Another bus operator predicted: “When the buses come from Dockyard to Hamilton during the tourist season there will be people on the route who have to make work by 9am in Hamilton, but they will be waiting a long time because the buses will be full.

“You will watch one bus go by, two, three. Just you wait and see what happens.”

Mr DeSilva, who is also tourism minister, announced the implementation of the schedule at the Transport Control Department in Pembroke, flanked by Roger Todd, the director of the DPT, and Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union.

He said: “Hard work and open communication allowed us to devise solutions that benefit bus operators and the Bermuda public, and can be sustained with our current fleet of buses.”

Two memorandums of understanding have been signed between the DPT and BIU, which will allow for monitoring and adjustment of the schedule and a definition of night work for drivers.

Mr Todd said: “Over the next 18 months, the DPT will monitor the performance of the new schedule and make adjustments where appropriate to deliver a dependable, quality bus service.

“The agreement provides for regular review of the new bus schedule, the work rosters and new bus purchases.

“The second MOU defines night work for the bus operators, and will provide clarity for the development for future work rosters.

“The introduction of the new 50-bus schedule will greatly assist in eliminating the daily cancellations that have plagued the bus service in recent years.

“As additional buses come on line, through new purchases and out of service repairs, we will expand the bus service on those routes with the greatest demand.”

Mr Todd added: “The public bus schedule will be the same all year round except that, for the purpose of organising the bus operators work shifts, the winter bus schedule includes school runs and the summer bus schedule does not.”

The new schedule does not tackle demand for late night transport after the introduction of roadside breath test checkpoints, Mr Todd said.

He added: “The new schedule does not extend hours of operation of the existing schedule.”

The introduction of the schedule was postponed twice in January.

Mr Furbert said there had been problems with the reduction of 104 rosters down to 80, and with the definition of night work.

He added: “The department and union have sat down and sorted out those rosters to a degree that is satisfactory to the membership, recognising that we still have our challenges.

“We will look at the schedule on a monthly basis and see if any changes need to be made. After the 18-month period we have to look at what kind of bus schedule will we have going forward.

“The MOU is critical: the management team and BIU have to look at that in good faith and ensure the operators’ hours of work are respected in relation to their day-to-day work.”

The new schedule can be viewed and printed on www.gov.bm/bus