Old cry from Newman

Old cry from Newman

Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment

Friday, October 30, 2020

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WHILE committing to follow the Government's recent extension of coronavirus (COVID 19) containment measures, Egerton Newman — president of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS) — says his membership is getting a financial battering from it.

“We continue to reel from the debacle we're in right now. It is getting from bad to worse, and one less passenger only makes matters worse,” Newman told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine yesterday.

“The protocol says one less and we're trying to do that, but it's hard when you're charging the same fare...You hardly can get any passengers now and when you do get the passengers, you have to carry one less. We're in pickle right now to keep on the road, but we're trying to cope with the situation, respect the protocol and work with it,” he continued.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced an extension of the existing curfew arrangement until November 16. The curfew begins at 9:00 pm until 5:00 am daily.

Operators of motor cars with public passenger vehicle (PPV) licences will continue to carry one fewer passenger than stipulated by their licence. All Jamaica Urban Transit Company and Montego Bay Metro buses are required to carry seated-only passengers.

Also, as currently obtains, public transportation operators will be allowed one hour before and one hour after the curfew to get to and from base or home. No passengers are allowed during this one-hour period before and after the curfew hours.

A ban on parties and restrictions on the number of persons attending funeral services remain in place; the stay-at-home order for persons 65 years and older is still in force; and restricted access to nursing homes, hospitals and infirmaries continues.

So far, Jamaica has recorded more than 200 deaths associated with the coronavirus, with close to 9,000 people testing positive.

The TODSS head says he was aware that not all his 7,000 members were religiously following the protocols, as there were a couple of bad eggs.

“I can honestly say not all of us are doing it but we have talked to our members about carrying one less passenger...Some cab drivers tend to want to relax the rule, especially after 6:00 pm because there is a mad rush on the road after 6:00 pm as people want to get home. So it's hard for them to say: 'Mek mi leave yuh,' “ he reasoned.

Newman bemoaned the fact that the Government has ignored their calls for a fare increase despite the fact that they are “essential workers”.

“We are on the front line...we are essential workers. We're adhering to the protocols that the Government has outlined but at the same time I'm saying, 'Come to our rescue, show some assistance.' I see other groups getting praise and commendation for working...we have to work 24/7,” he said.

“I was just talking to one of my members just now. He says that 11:30 every night he has to take two nurses to Public [Kingston Public Hospital]. He carries passengers to Public, in terms of patients, he carries nurse to and from. So, we are doing the work but nobody remembers us. We are doing the work. Everybody is getting assistance but the taximan and busman get nothing. We still have to do the work because people have to travel. Can you imagine if all taximen stop working tomorrow at 6:00 am? Who would go to work? What would happen to the productive sector? We keep the wheel of sector turning and when the Government turns a blind eye to us for 18 months. For 18 months the Government has not spoken to us about a fare increase. We have been waiting for eight years for a fare increase and cyaan get it,” he continued.

The last time a fare increase was approved was 2013; base rates moved from $66.00 to $82.50.

The president of the Maxfield Avenue-based group, however, committed to holding the line.

“We're standing by the protocols but there is no fare increase, no help for sanitisation, no COVID money assistance. We're trying our best,” he added.

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