"Commuters Push for Safer and More Comfortable Public Transport System"

"Commuters Push for Safer and More Comfortable Public Transport System"

Thu, 12/21/2023 - 21:09
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By: Omar Silva, Editor National Perspective Belize (DIGITAL EDITION)

Belize City: Thursday, 21st December 2023

Hot, crowded buses with worn-out seats and questionable safety features may soon become a relic of the past in Belize. The Ministry of Transport has taken a significant step toward improving the public transportation system by mandating that bus operators upgrade at least 50% of their fleets. While the exterior of these buses may still look the same, the interior has been transformed into a haven of comfort and safety, featuring air conditioning and comfortable seating.

In a recent visit, Minister of Transport Rodwell Ferguson and his team inspected buses from major operators such as Gilharry, James, and Westline, all of which have undergone substantial upgrades. These enhancements include new seats, air conditioning systems, and window repairs. The question on everyone's mind is whether these upgrades will truly enhance the commuting experience for the public.

Minister Rodwell Ferguson expressed his satisfaction with the progress, stating, "We put this requirement in place at the beginning of 2023, with a deadline set for December 2023. We were aiming for a 50% upgrade, considering the financial challenges. This marks a significant start, and we appreciate the efforts made by bus owners."

The transformation is already in motion, with several bus operators, including James, Gilharry, and Westline, taking steps to meet the 50% upgrade requirement. The Minister plans to conduct inspections by the end of the year to ensure compliance.

Leon Gentle, the newly appointed Chief Transport Officer, emphasized the importance of maintaining high standards for bus operators and enhancing the quality of service for commuters. He stated, "We want to improve the quality of service for commuters by upgrading seating and extending the lifespan of buses. These standards are not new; we're simply aiming to raise the bar."

The successful implementation of these upgrades relies on a collaborative effort between bus owners and the Ministry of Transport. Ewart Metzgen, Secretary of the Belize Bus Association (BBA), stressed the importance of unity and cooperation, despite any differences between the parties involved.

Meanwhile, the bus company Floralia continues to set the standard for public transportation in Belize. After a recent court order revoked three of their southern routes, Floralia has successfully regained two of them. Minister Ferguson explained that Floralia was awarded the Punta Gorda 5:30 AM and 6:30 AM runs, while another dispute regarding a run from Dangriga to Belize City is pending resolution by the board.

In further transport news, after five months of vacancy, the Ministry of Transport has appointed a new Chief Transport Officer. Mr. Leon Gentle, with over 18 years of experience in the education department, will now lead the transport division. His appointment followed the non-renewal of the former Chief of Transport's contract and a competitive selection process that involved several qualified candidates.

As Belizean commuters eagerly anticipate a safer and more comfortable public transport system, the Ministry of Transport's efforts, along with cooperation from bus operators and stakeholders, are expected to bring positive changes to the country's transportation landscape.