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Ombudsman: bus communications to improve

Speaking out: Victoria Pearman, the Ombudsman of Bermuda (Photograph supplied)

An attempt to improve communication over bus cancellations has been launched, the Ombudsman of Bermuda has revealed.

Victoria Pearman said that the investigation was in the public interest “given the number of people impacted and the cumulative effects for the most vulnerable members of our society”.

She added: “The investigation remains in the fact-finding stage.”

She was speaking having raised “significant concerns” last September about communication of an interim bus schedule to the public.

She said earlier that after “extensive consultation” with the Government an investigation was launched last November into whether the Government “effectively and sufficiently communicated bus cancellations to the public”.

Ms Pearman added: “Some of Bermuda’s most vulnerable people depend on bus service, including seniors, children and those who cannot afford private transport. We believe these groups are less likely to complain about the impact of daily bus delays and cancellations.”

The comments were contained in Ms Pearman’s annual report for 2018. The 48-page document was presented to Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, two weeks ago.

Ms Pearman said that the Department of Public Transportation had admitted that it had struggled with a smaller fleet of buses than was needed to provide a service in line its schedule.

Ms Pearman said: “Primary efforts to reduce cancellations have focused on replenishing the available fleet, including new bus purchases, out-of-service repairs and midlife refurbishments.”

She said that the Ombudsman’s office was “hopeful” that the new bus schedule that came into force in March “would provide a more consistent and predictable service”.

Zane DeSilva, the transport minister, announced the next month that the new schedule had been scrapped after just six weeks.

Mr DeSilva said the decision was made after complaints from the public and operators.

Ms Pearman said that the old schedule was reinstated “with some changes, including that it no longer listed those trips which had been routinely cancelled”.

She added: “By relying of an online platform, the department may not have been effectively communicating with its users. It should not be assumed that all bus users can access the department’s online updates.”

Ms Pearman said that some users do not have smartphones or home access to the internet.

She said the department is making changes to how it communicates. Ms Pearman added: “It is now working to notify the public about cancellations through CITV announcements and a phone-in recording, which would be updated multiple times per day.”

The Ombudsman’s office last year handled 309 cases, including 166 new complaints and 98 new inquiries.

A total of 45 complaints remained open from 2017.