The issue of short bus routes has raised alot of concern from public. Honiara buses
ATTEMPTS to implement plans to curb the Honiara Short-cut routes are being hampered by lack of Technical manpower.
This is according to the MID PS, Moses Virivolomo.
Mr Viriolomo told FSII News that analyzing of technical data relating to the current short-cut routes practiced by our buses in Honiara needs at least 3 highly trained technical people before we can implement the plan.
The technical personnel Mr Virivolomo referred to include a Transport Planner, a Transport Economist and a Technical transport Logistic officer and a separate unit of its own to properly coordinate and manage the whole bus operation system.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Development has developed a plan to map out all Honiara routes with certain buses allocated to service different routes.
Under their plan, they have mapped out 12 different routes, starting from White River at the West side to Henderson at the far Eastern end of the City.
The plan is that all buses are designated for certain routes, therefore cannot service another route.
For example, buses operating Route 1 cannot at the will of the driver just drive up and pick up passengers at other Route 2.
“These are areas that need proper technical analysis but MID do not have the money to implement these plans.
“We need technical people but we cannot just get these extra manpower overnight,” Mr Virolomo said.
He said there is a great need for extra manpower on the bus turn around designations as well.
“These officers will be assigned to stand on these locations to ensure right buses turn at these end routes for a period to educate and monitor and evaluate the plan.”
Mr Virilomo also stated that amongst others, they need to analyze many things including incoming and outgoing passengers at each starting/ending points to determine the viability and economics of each route so that we do not victimize bus owners as well.
“Our attitude is such that when a bus driver feels that he is not making money, he will just drive off to another economical route.
“We might end up causing problems than solving them because bus drivers might argue and end up fighting themselves in front of passengers”.
He said at the moment MID does not have these technical people, therefore hampers our plans to implement these plans.
“We are working very slowly on this plan and would like to call for the public and bus owners’ support and understanding,” the PS told FSII News.
Besides the technical aspect of the persisting problem, there are other associated problems that MID cannot single handedly resolve.
“The bus owners and commuters must cooperate as well. I’ll give you an example; when the bus fares in Honiara were raised from $2 to $4 some years ago, commuters continue to pay $2 instead of $4 (the new rate) recommended by Bus Owners Association in consultation with other relevant authorities and approved by the Ministry of Commerce and HCC.
“Perhaps the owners reacted to commuters’ refusal to pay $4 which eventually resulted in the shorter routes to make up for $4.00 (the approved rate)”.
But the MID’s Chief Executive and a planner himself by profession agreed that the current situation has totally gone out of hand and the buses are making newer and shorter routes than before, making commuters have to pay $12 - $15 one way to get to their destinations.
“Whilst I understand the public outcry for a better service, let’s be mindful because implementing the plan will mean putting some of our local bus owners out of the service.
“This is what we don’t want. It has to be a win-win situation. Both commuters and local owners must win when the plan is implemented.”
Asked what he meant by putting some local owners out of the service, Mr Virivolomo responded:
“Some of the criterions will include standard requirements. This means buses must have air-conditioners, cushioned chairs, bigger size buses and others.
“There is also a requirement for bus drivers and conductors to meet public demand. Sad to say that many of our local buses do not meet some of these standards yet, therefore we must not rush but carefully study and improve this plan.”
Meanwhile, the PS told FSII News that his Ministry will meet with the Roads Transport Board next week to look at the worsen situation of the Honiara bus service.
FSII News also understands that the FSIIM is liaising with the HCC, MID and other stakeholders to bring them to a round table discussion to look at temporary measures to address the worsening bus situation in Honiara.
“We cannot wait for the Parliament to meet to deliberate on the report. We must act now.
“I’m sure if we can put our acts together, we can find some solution. Honiara is our city. All residents are related to each other in a way therefore getting responsible people and talk is the starting point to finding a lasting solution,” says Benjamin Afuga.
At the same time, the HCC Clerk is prepared to be part of any discussion to resolve this worsening situation of the short cut routes.
Charles Kelly told FSII News: “HCC is willing to sit with all stakeholders including concerned citizens group FSII and see where we can help.
“I want all stakeholders including MID, Ministry of Commerce and RSIP to be present so that we can identify where we can complement each other and stop pointing fingers”.
Afuga said: “It’s a painful situation. We do not have time to blame each other. We only have time to listen to each other, identify problems and find solutions.
“That’s all we need. At the end of the day, the repercussions of this problem will be felt 10 years from today if we can’t resolve it now.
“Our students who are severely affected by this situation resulting in continuous lateness will be affected in the long run.
“The business community will also be affected, especially those in the production sector.
“It will seriously affect their production and the economy as well”.