Entities around the country are putting in measures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, but for the transportation industry it seems a daunting task. As the public transport tries its best to ferry commuters to destinations safely, there was a temporary shutdown of the central terminal in Belize City. On that very same day, came the announcement of a rise in bus fares. Dale McDougall connects the dots in the following report.
This is an all too familiar scene at terminals across the country. Commuters rushing to get seats on the bus. For R Tillet Bus Line based in the north commuters will have to fight for just forty two seats on an average fifty six seater bus. That’s because the Ministry of Health and Wellness announced that the buses going anywhere in the country can only carry up to 75% of its total seating capacity. And now commuters are concerned over an increase in rates announced by the company on Sunday. We spoke to Supervisor Adelric Tileltt about the decision to adjust the prices upward.
Adelric Tillett, Supervisor: “We were debating on whether to increase the prices or not for the past weeks from when this 75% capacity was implemented last week. Then yesterday we came to the conclusion of raising our prices. Now this 75% capacity is basically forty two passengers on every bus and our total capacity for each bus is fifty six passengers so that’s we could say fourteen passengers less and that’s quite a lot. Now the fuel prices isn’t in our favor ,everything is going up, the oil prices, tire prices, even the fuel is going up and down. Lots of businesses out there have decreased their salaries for their workers and then we have been able to manage to maintain all our workers and have their salary at the amount, no decrease at all. So basically it’s just because of the 75% capacity and the prices and all of the other expenditures that are really going up.”
The increase announced by R Tillett includes $6 from Belize City to Orange Walk and on return. $5 from Ladyville to the Sugar City or vice versa and $4 from Ladyville to Carmelita and Towerhill. While many are not thrilled about having to pay slightly more Tillett explains that this new price is still below what they can legally charge.
Adelric Tillett, Supervisor: “When we get our road service permits the price given to us in the road service permit is $7.50 from Orange Walk to Belize on an express buss and $6.50 on a regular bus. So we used to charge $4 back in 2013/2014, around 2016 or 2018 we increased the price to $5; from then since this pandemic hit well it affected all of the businesses here, all around the world and we now increased the price to $6 in order for us to maintain our business and continue taking our passengers from point a to point b to their final destination.”
And while many commuters have various choices for that final destination the Department of Transport has been facing challenges in ensuring that it’s facilities are free from the coronavirus. On Sunday the Belize City Terminal had to temporarily shut down because one of the terminal staff tested positive for COVID19. Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Transport Marconi Leal told Love News that the staff member had gone on personal leave on Wednesday and informed his superiors that he tested positive on Sunday. He explained that the compound was to have been thoroughly sanitized and it seems that that process took place overnight because the terminal was opened this morning, Monday, for regular service. We understand that all staff members have been tested and cleared. But what about commuters ? Well terminal staff still face challenges in getting the public to mask up. But the funny thing is when we visited the terminal on Monday most people became overly self conscious and started wearing their masks correctly and sanitized their hands thoroughly before boarding the few buses that we captured earlier today.
Love News understands that at least one other bus line in the north is contemplating a rate increase.