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On Sunday, the National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT) concluded what council President Godfrey Ferdinand described as a very cordial and fruitful meeting with Transport Minister, Stephenson King, to discuss problems affecting minibus operators.
However, Ferdinand said the Minister made no promises but had to present the issues raised by the NCOPT executive to the Cabinet of Ministers.
“I find that the Minister was very open and honest in his responses,” the NCOPT President told St Lucia Times.
“He didn’t make any promises, but he did say that he would work for both the public and the bus sector to benefit from the present situation,” Ferdinand explained.
The situation to which Ferdinand referred pertains to the rising cost of fuel and the surge in operational expenses bus operators are experiencing.
He said the NCOPT executive also discussed concessions, bus fares, the upgrade of the bus sector, disciplinary issues, and other matters at the meeting with King.
But Ferdinand explained that the rising cost of fuel was a pressing issue.
“Government has two options – one is to give us an increase to defer that or give us a rebate. Obviously that has to be a cabinet conclusion – whether they are going to allow a bus fare increase or continue with exemptions and rebates,” the NCOPT official told St Lucia Times.
The meeting with the Transport Minister preceded a planned session with the NCOPT General Council comprising representatives of all affiliated bus associations.
Ferdinand expressed the hope that, in addition to the Transport Minister, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre, responsible for Finance, would attend.
“It looks like this meeting will be some time next week. We have to confirm the day and time,” the NCOPT President stated.
According to Ferdinand, if the majority favour a bus fare increase at the general council meeting, the NCOPT will pursue that option with the current administration.
“If the majority say we can wait for one year for the increase and wait for the different approaches the government wants to take as well as us, because I believe bus fares should be done in a way that is very clear and precise,” he stated.
Based on his experience in the sector, Ferdinand said the Ministry of Finance had calculated fares based on inflation, operational costs, and other factors.
“We are just requesting for the government to put that into motion and let’s work together,” Ferdinand stated.
Headline photo: (L to R) Godfrey Ferdinand & Stephenson King
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