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Fahy: minibuses may serve certain bus routes

Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities Michael Fahy at a press conference on Throne Speech initiatives (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Jonathan Bell

Minibuses may get called in to serve neighbourhoods that public buses cannot reach, as the Government looks at regulating the industry.

“We have to start that process of conversation,” transport minister Senator Michael Fahy told a press conference elaborating on Throne Speech initiatives.

He said the move, which would cover an industry that has been unregulated thus far, would also help the island’s transportation services to better coordinate their efforts.

Mr Fahy conceded that Throne Speech pledges for the island’s strongest-yet measures to rein in dangerous driving still faced a journey through the legislature.

However, he vowed to work at “top speed” in getting the job done before the close of the parliamentary session in July.

Speed cameras and roadside sobriety tests are far from new for the island, Mr Fahy added, recalling his own advocacy for such measures as shadow minister back in 2009.

“We’ll do the best we can to do as quickly as we can,” he said. Speed cameras may include mobile units as well as fixed cameras.

Turning to another long-anticipated pledge — the new resort in St George’s — Mr Fahy said a planning application was currently being processed.

Without committing to a deadline, the Minister told locals to expect “some activity on that site” in the new year.

The resort developer is entitled to a provisional casino licence under the latest gaming legislation, but will be required to meet the same criteria as others before receiving a final licence.

“We’ve always said that the casino product is an amenity to hotels,” Mr Fahy said, adding that politicians would otherwise have no say in who got approved for gaming. Despite the criticism that it’s taking too long, there have been jurisdictions that looked at gaming legislation ten years ago and still have no casinos. That’s not going to be us.”

Meanwhile, legislation for the airport project is likely to be tabled and debated by MPs in the next two weeks — after which the Government will be poised to sign off and start the terminal redevelopment at “full speed”.

On tourism, which has seen a rise in arrivals, Mr Fahy noted that the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s primary marketing target remains the northeast of the United States. “You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, overdoing it in different jurisdictions,” he said — but added that Bermuda’s downturn in its former top industry has been fuelled by neglect. “You still go to tourism conferences and hear people say ‘I remember my dad went there 25 years ago’. We lost the next generation. And yet the most recent statistics show a significant increase in under-45 travellers.”

The Minister has said that tourism in 2017 looks to be the island’s best in 30 years, but again called the Government “not the most nimble of organisations” when it came to courting growth in new areas such as super yachts.

“The significant increase in figures is not just due to the America’s Cup,” he said, attributing it to renewed “belief in the Bermuda product”.

Many West End residents have complained at missing buses to a high number of cruise ship tourists, which the Minister said had been an early priority in taking up his portfolio. Mr Fahy said he had implemented “simple things like moving the times that buses leave a certain bus stop to allow more locals to use them”.

On minibuses, he said: “We want to look at finding a way in which we can utilise minibuses to serve certain routes across the island that are not served by public transport.”

Mr Fahy pointed out that some areas of the island have remained inaccessible due to the size of buses.

He cautioned that there was no intention of “overtaking” public transport, and likened regulation of minibuses to that of the taxi industry, which has its own measures in place such as a dress code.

Later, in addressing the Senate’s Throne Speech debate, Mr Fahy gave Ferry Reach as an example of an area currently lacking bus service.

“We have looked at it, but there’s no place for public buses to turn around at the top,” he said, telling the Upper House that an “irregular” minibus service covering busy times such as going to school or coming home from work might be included as part of the licensing.