Bill for minibuses may hit $630,000

  • Minibus initiative: Transport minister Walter Roban announced move last week (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The total fare for a school minibus service could hit $630,000, the Government said yesterday.

According to a transport ministry spokesman, the Department of Public Transportation estimates that the cost will run from between $176,400 to $630,000.

“Minibuses are hired on an ‘as needed’ basis,” the spokesman said.

Transport minister Walter Roban announced the initiative last week. At the time, he said the move would help “alleviate the pressure on the regular bus fleet” which was in a “state of disrepair” that had “reduced the number of buses available to school and commuter routes”.

Mr Roban said the minibuses would be contracted through the Bermuda Minibus Association.

According to the spokesman, BMA was selected following an RFP process to the minibus associations.

“Only one vendor met the requirements,” he said.

The contract with BMA is fixed-term, the spokesman said, with the vehicles operated by private drivers.

The minibuses will be dispatched from the east and west ends of the island in the mornings and from the two public high schools — CedarBridge Academy and Berkeley Institute — in the afternoons, Mr Roban said.

Leonard Santucci, chairman of the board at CedarBridge, said that from all indications the first day of the minibus service had run smoothly.

“To the best of my understanding, what the Government has facilitated transpired quite nicely,” he said.

Dr Santucci said the means by which students arrived to class each day was a concern to the school.

“We do not want to encourage students to necessarily get into private vehicles, which might constitute a security risk,” he said.

At the same time, Dr Santucci said the school was “sympathetic to the plight” of the Department of Public Transportation and the Government with regards to the availability of working buses.

He said that while he supported the use of minibuses as a temporary solution for transporting students, he wanted to see the responsibility back on public buses soon.

“We say that also from the perspective that whenever minibuses are being utilised, it is at an additional cost to the Government purse,” Dr Santucci said.

“We are very cautious when it comes to unnecessary expenditure. But at the same time we’re caught in a fix, because it’s something beyond everybody’s control.”

Last month, it was revealed that 72 out of the island’s fleet of 105 buses were off the roads after the breakdown of six vehicles in a single morning. At last week’s press conference, Mr Roban said 54 buses were still out of service.

In Friday’s Throne Speech, the new government said the previous government had left 14 mechanic positions vacant “which caused the lack of sufficient buses to meet demand”.

“In order to increase reliability of published routes, to instil confidence in the service, and to reduce overtime paid to repair ageing buses, the Government will invest in new buses and will immediately fill six vacant maintenance positions,” it pledged. At last week’s press conference, Mr Roban said that he expected Bermuda would take possession of four new buses “within a few months”.