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Minibuses help prevent transport chaos

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Minibuses in Dockyard this morning despite a vow to withdraw labour today (Photograph by Lisa Simpson)

Visitors arriving in the West End were not faced with transportation chaos this morning despite some a withdrawal of labour from taxi drivers.

Although many went ahead with their protest, the impact was reduced when minibus associations dropped their threat to down tools for the weekend, following an emergency meeting with transport minister, Senator Michael Fahy, last night.

It meant there were markedly less vehicles on the cruise ship pier, but those tourists on board the Anthem of the Seas faced only a short wait for some of the vehicles that were still running or were redirected to the bus and ferry services.

There was no shortage of taxis at LF Wade International Airport, although drivers did send a message of discontent with a procession around the island, with signs saying “no rental cars”.

The action follows a row over the Motor Car Amendment (No 2) Act, which would allow tourists to rent minicars, that was put on hold by Mr Fahy amid a storm of complaints from taxi and minibus drivers.

Despite late talks with Mr Fahy yesterday, Leo Simmons, the president of the Bermuda Taxi Owners and Operators Association, insisted the withdrawal of labour remained necessary, insisting they needed to make a stand because of safety issues raised by the Bill.

But in a statement this afternoon, Bermuda Minibus Association president David Burgess and Somers Isles Minibus Association president Kevin Bean said they had continued providing service all day because the Government had put the issue off until the House of Assembly sits again in September.

“The Bermuda Minibus Association and the Somers Isles Minibus Association wish to jointly advise the public that at an emergency meeting last night, it was the decision of our members, in light of the Government’s decision to put the issue of the rental cars in abeyance until the September sitting of the House, that no further action was warranted at this time,” they stated.

“This decision of our membership was communicated to Mr Leo Simmons, president of the Taxi Association, at the end of our meeting.

“Consequently the minibuses were in service the entire day providing cruise ship visitors and visitors at the LF Wade International airport with transportation to various destinations on the island. We look forward to working with the Minister to address our concerns about the proposal to have rental cars in Bermuda.”

One tourist seeking transport from Dockyard today, Sarah Kramer, from New Jersey, told The Royal Gazette that the West End Development Corporation staff had been very helpful and she did not have to wait long to catch a ride to Horseshoe Bay Beach.

“We were a little bit panicked because we didn’t want to be left behind although there are worse places to be stranded than Bermuda.”

Holly Kanfer and her daughter Billie were also waiting in the taxi and minibus area.

“We’ve been here now for 26 minutes,” Ms Kanfer said.

And while she said they were slightly frustrated by the wait, she added that they are used to public transportation.

“We live in New York City. You’ve got public transportation, you get the right change and you figure it out.”

The Anthem of the Seas arrived in Dockyard this morning with 4,853 passengers on board. Tourists started disembarking at about 8.20am and were still trickling off the ship by noon. However, there were no more than 30 people waiting in the taxi and minibus area between 10am and 11am, and there were no long queues at the bus stop or by the ferry stop.

Olivia Gracie, who works in Dockyard, said: “Normally the whole area is full of taxis and there are taxis parked out back. They may have got lucky with the rain this morning. I was expecting it to be a lot worse.”

Ms Gracie also witnessed the procession of about 30 taxis and minibuses that left Dockyard at about 9.30am this morning, as about 100 people looked on. She said the vehicles circled around the pier and Dockyard before being moved on by police.

That procession, which was moving at about 20km/h, continued into the afternoon across the island.

But Ms Gracie added that minibuses and trains quickly arrived to take people where they were headed.

According to minibus driver Darrenn Millett, about three quarters of the usual minibus drivers were on the roads.

“I understand the situation they’re all crying about but economically I can’t afford to take the day off. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid.”

Another driver, who asked not to be named, said that while he supports the action taken by the BTOA, he could not support penalising visitors who have come to Bermuda on a one-day cruise, many of whom are visiting for the first time.

But he added that he would be “downing tools” if the action had taken place on any other day, stressing that he also believes rental cars for tourists would jeopardise the livelihood of taxi drivers.

Another minibus driver, who also asked not to be named, said that while he also supports the action, the timing is not right.

“I’ve got to make money and I don’t think it makes sense striking if it [the Bill] does not go to the House until November.”

He said he would be out on the roads until the ship left and departed with a bus full of tourists headed to Horseshoe Bay.

A procession of taxis leaves Dockyard this morning in protest at a Bill allowing tourists to rent minicars (Photograph by Lisa Simpson)
Business as usual: taxis line up outside LF Wade International Airport at noon today (Photograph by Tia Smith)
Tourists take advantage of a taxi in Dockyard this morning (Photograph by Lisa Simpson)
Senator Michael Fahy, the tourism minister, whose Motor Car Amendment (No 2) Act has enraged taxi drivers (File photo)