Minister is ‘out of touch’, say ferry users
Pink Route ferry passengers have branded Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, “arrogant and out of touch” as they demanded he reverse cuts to the service.
As a petition calling for the restoration of an “adequate” waterborne commuter link between Paget/Warwick and the capital passed 1,000 signatures, ferry users expressed anger at the minister’s stance on the issue.
A government spokeswoman said today that changes to the schedule are expected to save $235,520 a year.
Mr Scott angered patrons of the Pink Route service when he insisted they had “other options”, that the cuts would not force more cars on to the roads, and money saved would be used to help secure an air service to Boston.
After stepping off the ferry this morning, regular commuter Sylvie Rowlinson, told The Royal Gazette: “The minister is totally out of touch.
“I have lived in Bermuda for 44 years, I spend half the year here and half overseas, and I depend on the ferry.
“I have multiple sclerosis, and on days that are not so good, the ferry workers always help me.
“I admire all the people who work on the ferry, what will happen to them now?
”It’s a wonderful service.“
Regarding the minister’s claim that saved resources would go on an air link to Boston, Ms Rowlinson said: “I feel that Pink Route users are being sacrificed.”
Ms Rowlinson, of Salt Kettle, also dismissed Mr Scott’s comments that people had other options.
She said: “I no longer have a car. And there are many people in Bermuda who don’t want to be part of the rush hour.”
Lawrence Scott, the Minister of Transport, said that the Orange Route ferry service will return after a two-year suspension.
He added: “This ferry route will take passengers from Dockyard to St George’s during the summer season.
“Visitors will get direct service to the historic Town of St George providing support for those businesses and activities in the area.
“This service will operate on weekdays, Monday to Friday, when cruise ships are in Dockyard overnight.”
A government spokeswoman added that “minimal changes” were made to the Blue Route Dockyard to Hamilton service in the latest summer schedule, which will start on May 2.
She explained: “The ferry service will operate on weekdays from 7.30am to 8.30pm.
“Blue Route supports our cruise ship passengers between Dockyard to Hamilton, including Harbour Nights.
“The Bermudian ferry, which has a passenger capacity of 700, will be the primary vessel of use, and a smaller ferry will be used during off-peak times.”
The summer public ferry schedule is posted at www.marineandports.bm.
Fellow passenger Lynn Smith, who is from New Brunswick, but has been visiting Bermuda since 2005, said she thought it would impact on local tourism.
“I am a bit angry, if I have the right to say so as a visitor.
“I have always stayed in Paget and part of the attraction is being able to access Hamilton easily.
“I think what the minister said is arrogant and out of touch.
“What about the people of Hinson Island, what’s their alternative – swimming?
“A lot of older people don’t have a boat.
“I don’t have a car, and even walking down to the nearest bus stop will be a challenge.
“The minister should come down to the ferry and talk to people and see for himself.
“The service has been eroded for a few years now, and the six-hour gap between ferries is difficult, especially for seniors.
“I am spending a lot less in Hamilton now than I did three or four years ago because of that erosion of the service.”
Ferry user Jane Crerar claimed the minister was not following legislation in the matter.
She said: “There is provision in the Transport Act that the minister is obliged to provide ”adequate“ service.
“I don’t think there is much argument that “no weekend service” is “adequate”.“
Mr Scott insisted savings needed to be made to invest in other areas.
In a statement, he said: "Ridership on the Pink Route has been extremely low for some years.
“The management of the Ministry of Transport's budget requires that we prioritise the allocation of funding.
“This reduced service does not abandon the existing ridership on the route and provides the coverage we can afford and which will provide service at peak times.
“As I indicated previously, one of the areas that are critical to promoting the economic recovery we need in Bermuda is air-service development.
“Increased airlift provides greater connectivity for tourists as well as Bermudians and based on the recent experience we have to devote greater investment in air service development to prevent any further exposure to the taxpayer for payments to Skyport.
“Savings can and must be used to invest in other areas."
Mr Scott said: “During the Budget debate, I indicated that the ministry would cancel service on the Pink Route due to consistent decline in ridership.”
He added that it cost $648,000 each year to run the service.
The minister said: “We have heard the concerns of the people who make use of the Pink Route and have formulated a solution that retains weekday service for commuters and students travelling to and from Hamilton.
“The Pink Route is not being cancelled but we will reduce the frequency while still supporting riders who commute to and from Hamilton for work and school.”
Mr Scott highlighted that the revised schedule was similar to the service provided on the commuter-focused Green Route.
A government spokeswoman added that the revised schedule was expected to deliver projected annual cost savings of $235,520 as well as lower fuel costs and less overtime.
Mr Scott did not address specific questions about the air route support posed by The Royal Gazette.
What, exactly, is Mr Scott planning to do in order to get this air service?
How much will be used to subsidise the service, and when?
How many people will be impacted by such a move, both on the airline route, and the Pink ferry route?
* The revised summer ferry schedule will start on May 2 and the timetable can be found at www.marineandports.bm.
• UPDATE: this article has been amended to include additional information from the Government and further comments from the transport minister.