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Bus and ferry system a joke, say tourists

Passengers queue for a ferry in Dockyard yesterday.

Angry tourists have called the public transport system “a complete joke” after being welcomed to Bermuda with an hour's wait.Passengers on-board the Enchantment of the Seas were yesterday eager to visit the Island's sights such at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Horseshoe Bay and the Crystal Caves.But minutes after arriving at King's Wharf, Dockyard, they came face-to-face with the stark reality of Bermuda's timetable cuts.One woman complained: “How the heck do you get out of this place?” as hundreds of tourists faced lengthy waits at the bus and ferry stops.There were angry scenes as tourists were told there wouldn't be any ferries for at least an hour as “it was lunch” and they'd have to wait “up to half an hour” for a bus.Tourists complained about the “lack of organisation” and “rude staff” as they repeatedly asked how they were supposed to get to their chosen destinations.They also watched in disbelief as some buses were sent on their way with empty seats while other buses drove straight past them saying they were ‘off-duty' or going to the ‘garage'.Tourists told The Royal Gazette that buses and ferries should have been lined up ready to transport the 2,500 passengers who were on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.They called it “one of the worst ports” they'd been to as their best-made plans to see the Island in less than 24 hours had been ruined.It comes after the Ministry of Transport introduced plans for a dispatcher to “control tourist numbers” in a bid to save seats for locals. Locals have long complained that tourists were given priority as full buses were driving past them on the way to Hamilton.Meg Dennis, from London, angrily vowed “never to come back to Bermuda” after the dispatcher tried to stop her getting on the bus with her suitcase. The visitor was told suitcases were not allowed on buses and “rules were rules.”Ms Dennis, who had got off the cruise ship to stay with her daughter for two weeks, said: “This is absolutely rubbish, I've come all the way from England to visit my daughter, I wait for ages then I'm turned away from the bus.“Come on, I'm very angry, I've got to get to Hamilton.”The dispatcher replied: “That's the rule, take it up with the Tourism Minister if you don't like it,” before the bus driver intervened and said he would take the woman “just this once” but only because he wanted to avoid the bad publicity.Deon Brantley, of Baltimore, was trying to get a bus to Hamilton and was told to stand in one place by one dispatcher, when another dispatcher came along and told him he was no longer in a line.He said: “It's a complete joke. There's a ship with 2,000 or more passengers on board so buses should be waiting.“It really should be more organised. Everyone is confused about what's going on. We are asking questions and we are just getting shouted at.“One minute we're told to stand over here as there are two lines then there is only one line. All I want to do is get to Hamilton, how hard can it be?”The Royal Gazette was at the bus stop to watch the fiasco unfold from about midday to 1pm yesterday. In that time just five buses stopped to pick up the hundreds of passengers waiting. Just two of these buses were ‘special' shuttle buses to take cruise ship passengers directly to Horseshoe Bay. During that time no ferries showed up, but about 200 people stood in line.Darlene Pierre, from Washington DC, said she was confused because “everyone is asking questions but no one seems to know what is going on.”She said: “We've been on several cruises and I have to say this set-up is very confusing. It's one of the worst ports we've been to.“We got off the ship and we had to ask lots of people what direction to go in.“Now we get over here, we are told there is no ferry for an hour and there's no sign of any buses.“Things should be a lot more efficient. They knew the ship was coming, the buses and ferries should be lined up waiting.“I know it's a small Island but it's as if the place can't cope.”Bharati Shah, of Pennsylvania, said: “I'm not at all happy right now. I've been waiting here for half an hour and they tell me there's going to be no buses for another half an hour.“We just can't get out of here, you've really got to work on improving your transport.”Meanwhile, bus drivers agreed that the service wasn't up to scratch and called on Government to do more to improve the timetable for both tourists and locals.One bus driver, who did not want to be named, said: “The one thing Government shouldn't mess with is public transport, especially not at this time of year. The problem is that we have new Tourism and Transport Ministers who know nothing about the public transport system.“It just wasn't like this last year. There were at least 10 buses taking the tourists straight to Horseshoe Bay, they'd get off the ship and straight on the bus. Today there are just two buses going straight to Horseshoe, it's organised chaos.“We can't get the people on buses quick enough. People are left waiting around and it's not fair. Sometimes they are hanging around all day because we just can't clear the backlog.”Another bus driver said: “Tourists aren't happy but they are only here for a day or two so don't know any different.“It's the locals who are most annoyed and rightly so. People are waiting for up to two hours for buses on South Shore. You drive past them with a full bus and they stick their middle finger up at us.“Drivers are getting the blame, but it's not our fault, we are just doing what we are told.”Transport Minister Terry Lister did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.