Transport Minister Renward Wells.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government's unified bus system study will cost about $600,000, Transport Minister Renward Wells said yesterday.
He said the government expects to reap about $300,000 from the programme while Cabinet has already approved that amount for it.
The study is intended to determine if a unified busing system is feasible and will begin on September 2 with a new route, number 17. Mr Wells has said bus services will be provided by modern, clean buses. Five buses will operate the pilot service based on 60 or 75 minute round-trip time and they will operate every fifteen minutes, he said.
Yesterday, outside Cabinet, he said: "I know we said before we would have started out by now, but there are some contracts that we're needing to sign and once those contracts are signed by this Friday we'll be able to move the project forward. It's going to be like the regular operation of any bus service. We're not introducing something new in this system so it's really not a pilot, it's more a study. We're doing this because we want to know as a government what a bus franchise is valued.
"Once we know what a bus franchise is valued, we would be able to say to the general public here is what a bus franchise is valued, here's what the Bahamas government is prepared to do in regards to our public transport system, whether the government is going to take over the entire system and just hire drivers to drive or whether we're going to have a public private partnership operation where the private sector manages a system, government has shares in it and the Bahamian people have shares in it and we hire drivers to drive. I think that's probably more of the approach that we will take. Hopefully after the six months assessment study we would be able to come back to the Bahamian people and say here is what the franchise is valued and here is the direction we intended to go into as a government and ministry."
The previous Christie administration laid a foundation for the unified bus system study.
Last year, bus drivers formed a union in part to consult on the project.
Frederick Farrington, president of the union, said he was involved in discussions for the project. He called for the elimination of money on buses and changes to bus routes. He proposed a three card system - a yellow card for passengers paying the $1.25 fare, a green card for $1, and a pink card for senior citizens. Persons would scan the cards upon boarding a bus.