Leave politics out of transport sector — Vaz

MINISTER of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport Daryl Vaz is rubbishing claims from the Opposition that the Government inflated the number of Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses that has been rolled out for the new school year.

He was referring to Opposition spokesman on transport Mikael Phillips’s allegation that a larger roll-out number was reported and that only 180 buses were actually deployed, not the revised figure of 285 when the JUTC failed to meet the projected 300 target.

“If you do a simple mathematical calculation: If we had 140 buses that was agreed at our lowest a few months ago that we were rolling out and we got 50 new buses, that would take it to 190 buses and that’s without the rehabilitated buses and other buses that require spare parts etcetera.

“So I want to caution and ask as I have said before to leave the politics out of the transport sector. We have enough issues that we are trying to deal with and what we are trying to do is have collaboration, consensus, and communication,” Vaz said.

Vaz explained that on Monday 285 buses were available, but after roll out, this was reduced to 236 buses due to defects and breakdowns.

“Yesterday [Tuesday], we had a roll-out of 233 buses, and this morning [Wednesday], up to seven o’clock, we had 265 available buses…we had 70 from the Portmore depot, 65 from the Spanish Town depot, and 60 from the Rockfort depot. Bearing in mind that all the buses are not rolled out at once. It’s done in phases over the period of the morning,” he said.

Vaz explained that the challenge the JUTC is having, which has caused it not met the target of the 300 buses, is that the company has 70 old buses that are aged between 12 and 14 years. He said those buses were rehabilitated for back-to-school but are “not holding up as we expected. So the rehabilitated buses are the ones that are coming back in pretty much as soon as they go out.”

“So the decision in relation to that, based on the age, is that we’re going to try and make 30 or 35 buses out of the 70 buses that can be reliable for the interim until obviously such time as we are able to re-fleet. So I continue to ask for patience and understanding. This is a decade-long problem, possibly 20 years, and obviously today we are seeing the effects of the lack of investment,” he said.

Turning to further plans to re-fleet the JUTC, Vaz said that after Finance and Public Sector Minister Dr Nigel Clarke made the announcement in his budget presentation to procure 200 buses starting next year, he subsequently met with the minister, along with their respective teams, “to go through the realities of the JUTC, and I’m confident that in a matter of weeks we will be in a position to state categorically how we have revised these figures, what the new figures are, and the timelines for the arrival of new buses”.

“I commit, out of full disclosure, to keep the public updated and thank the travelling public for their patience, and I can tell you that I have seen and heard of the improvements in the waiting time for buses, especially for the Spanish Town and Portmore routes, which at one point was up to two-and-a-half to three hours, which is totally unacceptable in modern-day Jamaica,” he said.