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Reliable public transportation a key priority

David Burt has pledged $3 million to help bolster Bermuda's battered bus fleet.

The Premier and Minister of Finance said during his Budget Statement: “Rebuilding the bus fleet is a priority for this Government as we support public transport.”

He said the $3 million would be used to purchase eight new buses.

The money formed part of $64.2 million promised to the Ministry of Transport and Regulatory Affairs.

Mr Burt said the funds would ensure the island “can have a reliable public transportation system on land and sea”.

Transport minister Walter Roban told The Royal Gazette that he would answer questions on the announcement next week.

Problems with the ageing bus fleet have led to daily route cancellations amid a shortage of operational vehicles. A fleet of minibuses was hired for school runs in the fall to supplement traditional buses.

In December, a government spokesman confirmed that dedicated school buses would not run when the minibus contract concluded at the end of the year.

Sandys resident Janice Battersbee began exploring the idea for a carpool scheme for schoolchildren amid the ongoing bus shortage.

Ms Battersbee said yesterday the announcement of money for the new buses was “a positive step”.

She added: “It would all be a step in the right direction based on what we've been experiencing. At face value, it's a good thing.”

Ms Battersbee said the poor state of Bermuda's buses was not something that happened overnight.

She explained: “It was a long time coming to this situation, so it's going to take a while to get out of it. Nothing's going to happen at the snap of a finger — and you're talking about money. We have to be realistic about it.”

Ms Battersbee said she had received a few new e-mails from people “who are enthusiastic” about her carpool idea.

She said: “It's good to know that people are interested. You never know when something like this might be needed.”

Mr Roban announced last month that the first of four new buses had arrived on the island. At the time, he said that the remaining three vehicles were expected “within the next four months”.

Mr Burt also pledged yesterday to upgrade the island's fleet of trash trucks to “ensure the reliability of trash collection”.

Figures provided in the Budget book showed that an average of seven trash trucks have been available for work weekly.

The Ministry of Public Works was given a budget of $74 million, down $1 million from last year's allocation.

Mr Burt explained: “Most of the savings will be achieved by moving Government departments from private facilities, thus reducing the Government's rental expenditure.”

Works and Engineering has been allocated $30.5 million.

Jonathan Starling, executive director at Greenrock, said he understood there would be a “substantial increase” to the repair and management budget for the Department of Waste Management.

Mr Starling added: “If that's correct, then I think that's welcome.

“We won't see the impact of that right away of course, and thus the switch to once a week collections.”

Mr Starling said the group welcomed the “substantially” increased budget for recycling. He said: “I'm hearing it's a 42 per cent increase, which is certainly welcome.”

Originally budgeted at just under $1.3 million, $911,000 has been spent on recycling.

Next year's estimate sets the cash just shy of the $1.3 million mark.

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Published February 17, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 17, 2018 at 8:43 am)

Reliable public transportation a key priority

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