Ferry users see red over pink route cuts
A “pink rebellion” is brewing in Paget over cuts to the ferry service linking it with the capital.
Locals are up in arms over reductions to the pink route connecting the area to Hamilton.
Lawrence Scott , the Transport Minister, is under fire for stating in the February Budget that the link would be downgraded.
Protesters warned “drastic reductions” would be environmentally damaging and force more people on to the roads.
Neil Henderson, who is helping lead a campaign to preserve the connection, said: “Mr Scott has appeared in the media suggesting that further reductions may be made to the Paget-Warwick “pink” ferry route, possibly reducing the service to a commuter route during weekdays and removing the weekend service altogether.
“The minister stated that such reductions would save $200,000 per year on the annual budget which, to put things in perspective, should be considered in light of the published $132,000 cost for a single new electric bus, 30 of which have been ordered by the Ministry of Transport, but none of which services Harbour Road.
“In contrast to most countries which are deploying an increasing amount of their fiscal budgets into public transport, the minister seems minded to encourage more Bermudians on to our already clogged roads and into using private transport.
“Rather than the reduced service being a response to low ridership, the proposed reductions are leaving traditional ferry-users with little option than to use their own vehicles to compensate for an inadequate service on this route.
“Given increased flexibility in working arrangements arising from the global pandemic, this decision to reduce the service to traditional commuter hours is particularly backwards looking.
“The Paget-Warwick ferry has served the route for over 50 years, being a lifeline for tourism businesses along Harbour Road as well as many of the more vulnerable members of our community, in particular, the elderly, schoolchildren and those without private transport.
“So much so that the requirement for the Minister of Transport to ensure an “adequate” ferry service is enshrined in Bermuda’s statute book.
“The proposed changes will be particularly detrimental to tourism businesses along Harbour Road as well as the more than 50 residents of Hinson’s Island who rely entirely upon this ferry service for their public transportation.”
Campaigners said an online petition launched on April 9 had received more than 500 signatures in 48 hours.
John Lowe, who runs Salt Kettle Guest House, was worried about the tourism sector. “Our overseas guests love the ferry - it is very Bermudian, has a lot of charm and is a restful way to see the island,” he said.
“The six-hour gap in the Pink Route ferry service on Mondays to Fridays results in large amounts of unspent tourist dollars.
“My guests are on vacation and often indicate to me that they want to spend money in the Hamilton shops and restaurants. The proposed reductions - including the total removal of the weekend service - are going to make this situation much worse.”
Michael and Carol Ashton, owners of Granaway Guest Houses on Harbour Road, said: “Visitors choose our guest house with the proximity of the pink ferry being a key decision maker.
“Working around the reduced schedule has been a challenge and any further reduction would compromise this amenity and public service.“
Ferry user Jane Crerar has collected more than 250 signatures to a petition demanding the pink service be protected.
She said: “It is clear that ferry users feel much more strongly about the restoration of a proper service on this route than government anticipates.
“There is a genuine concern among people I have spoken with that further reductions will inevitably lead to cancellation of whole service.”
Denise Hansford-Smith, a resident of Hinson’s Island for more than half a century, is worried whether she will be able to stay in her home if the service is cut.
She said: “The loss of the later morning runs last year has made living on Hinson’s Island very difficult for me.
“Now there is barely enough time to get in to Hamilton from Hinson’s to get groceries etc and make the last morning ferry back at 9am.
“Further cutbacks will make that turnaround time impossible for me. On the days I have had a medical appointment, for example, I’ve had to wait for up to six hours before I can get home. It makes for such a very long day.”
The Government has not responded to requests for comment.