Public transportation out of the south western peninsula ground to a halt yesterday after two dozen bus drivers refused to take up duty saying the buses under their charge were defective.
The drivers joined their colleagues from the San Fernando branch who have vowed not to work unless the Ministry of Works put proper systems in place to ensure buses are roadworthy.
Shop steward for the Transport and Industrial Workers Trade Union (TIWU) Point Fortin Branch, Kervyn Edwards, said over the past month the Engineering Department of the PTSC in Point Fortin has been at a standstill because there is no mechanic assigned to work from 4.30 am to 1 pm. He said the first bus left Point Fortin at 3.30 am and it was important to have a mechanic on hand to inspect the buses before departure. He said there was only a trainee available who was not qualified to fix or inspect the buses.
“That trainee comes for 7 am and we have a chargehand who comes for 1 pm. This is not ideal for us because it means our engineering section is non-functional,” Edwards said.
He explained that the new ticket fines and demerit system were a cause of stress to many bus drivers who were unwilling to go out to work knowing the buses were not roadworthy.
According to Edwards, only three drivers reported for work by 7 am to operate a fleet of 27 buses. By 7 am, after making their first trip, all three declared their buses defective and stopped work.
“Our 5 am, 6 am and 8 am trips to Icacos never pulled off. We cannot drive buses which are not inspected and which are not roadworthy. We are not putting our lives and our passengers lives in danger,” he said.
Scores of people who waited for the bus to go to Point Fortin to do business were left stranded yesterday.
One of them, Icacos resident Shaheeda Maharaj said: “Normally pensioners go to Point Fortin to make their market and to change their pension cheques. People were so disappointed. This is not the first time the bus did not come.”
She said the residents sympathised with the drivers saying it was ridiculous that they were liable to pay hefty fines when it was PTSC’s fault the buses were defective.
“They need to get their act together. It is ridiculous. Why do they suffer poor people in this country,” Maharaj said.
Councillor for Cedros Shankar Teelucksingh said the bus drivers’ concerns were legitimate and justified and it was important for the Government to ensure the safety of all passengers by providing roadworthy buses.
“Today there was no bus in Bamboo, Chatham, Icacos and Cedros. The Works Minister should resign because he has proven to be incapable of running the transport system both on land and at sea,” he said.
Teelucksingh said bus transport was the only mode used by the poor pensioners on the peninsula.
“People use the bus to go to the wholesale market to buy their little groceries and to buy medicine. It is not acceptable that people have to suffer for public transportation this way,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Works Minister Rohan Sinanan said all buses were given a thorough inspection before being issued with inspection certificates. He said if bus drivers believed the certificates were issued without inspection, they should speak to the Transport Commissioner.