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New bus fares cripple commuters

Posted: Friday, November 18, 2016. 5:42 pm CST.


By Hugh O’Brien: Beginning on Monday of this week, new bus fares are being implemented by many operators on the western and northern routes and commuters are complaining bitterly that the new fares are crippling them and will send them further into poverty.

In an interview with Breaking Belize News, Granville Banner who resides in Santa Elena, Cayo, and commutes to Belize City on a daily basis said “the bus fare is going up, so sad to see we poor people who are struggling to make some money for our family, and most of it will go to the bus company”.

Banner, like many other commuters from San Ignacio, now have to pay $13 for a one way express run to Belize City while before they were paying $9. This represents a whopping 44% increase and eats away $26 (for a 2 way trip) on a daily basis from the already meager earnings of a regular commuting worker. For an employee working 5 days a week and earning $50/day or $250/week, this represents more than half or 52% of their income. This is why Banner begs the Minister of Transport to “please put your mind in the pockets of poor people…these bus fares do not make sense for poor people”. For employees who reside in the northern towns and work in Belize City, the story is very much the same.

Commuters can reduce their bus fare a little if they take the regular run but would have to contend with much longer time to reach work and return home. On the regular runs, the fare between Belize City and Belmopan increased from $5.00 to $6.00 and from San Ignacio to Belmopan went from $3.00 to $4.00. While some bus operators were charging $13.00 for express runs between San Ignacio and Belize City, others kept the fare at $11.00. James Bus Line is the only operator that has kept the old fare of $5.00 for express runs between Belize City and Belmopan.

This afternoon, Breaking Belize News spoke withChief Transport Officer,Tirsio Galvez, who confirmed that the bus fares have indeed been ‘restructured’ and were made legal via the passage of Statutory Instrument No. 72 which was signed by the Minister of Transport and made effective on the 29th October 2016. He confirmed that bus fares were increased in some cases and reduced in others. The regular run from Dangriga to Independence, for example, was reduced from $9 to $8, and from Dangriga to Silk Grass from $3.50 to $2.00.

According to the Commissioner of Transport, operators are now legally authorized to charge 12-14 cents per mile for regular runs within 100 miles of Belize City and 15-16 cents per mile for runs above 100 miles.

In early September, bus operators who form the Belize Bus Association (BBA) went public with their concerns that commuters should pay new busfares to keep up with the major increase in operating cost, particularly the high cost of fuel. Two (2) of the operators, namely Westline and BBOC implemented the new rates as a means of ‘civil protest’ so that government would be forced to listen to their concerns.

Following this ‘civil protest’, Transport Minister Edmund Castro, met with the operators and reached agreement on the implementation of the new rates which are now legally in effect since the 29th October 2016.

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