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Dec 21, 2005

Contingency plan kicks in as Novelo’s buses stop running

Story PictureOn Tuesday the receivership for the Novelo’s Bus Line threatened it would cease all service beginning today. Well, they made good on that promise, but the Transport Board also immediately activated a contingency plan similar to the one they used during the one-day suspension of service last month. Bus providers from all over Belize were given temporary permits to take over the Novelo runs… and while there were some glitches, particularly in the morning, overall things were humming along on the highways. The move by the bus company was prompted when Atlantic Bank, one of its creditors, withdrew from its joint receivership with the D.F.C. Atlantic also refused to pay the company’s fuel bill, which was running around twenty-three thousand dollars a day. The company is also said to have an overdraft in excess of one million dollars. The receivership’s management maintains that its profits have been eroded by sniper runs and the issuing, by the Transport Board, of temporary permits to its chief competitor and former owners, the Novelo family. Reports are that the Novelos have made a ten million dollar offer, backed by the Belize Bank to repurchase the company.

But in the meantime, the main concern for the commuting public is whether they will be able to get where they need to go for the rest of the week and during the Christmas holidays. News Five’s Karla Heusner found out.

Karla Heusner, Reporting
The taxi drivers were there, but no one was coming off or getting on any buses at the Novelo?s Terminal today. Instead, true to their word, the receiver has stopped all runs and posted a sign informing the public they?d have to find transportation elsewhere. Many ended up by the Pound Yard Bridge where Transport personnel were directing bus traffic.

The Transport Board?s contingency plan utilised a number of different operators including Gilharry, Tillett, Chell?s, Russell?s, Tun and Ucan in the north, Humes, Ortega, National Transport in the west, and for the southern runs James and Polanco. With the exception of some difficulties in the Placencia area, Glen Tillett of the Ministry of Transport says the coordinated effort began fairly smoothly. He says the operators? eagerness to supply the necessary runs bodes well for an eventual solution to the current crisis.

Glen Tillett, Policy and Planning Officer, Min. of Transport
?While the Novelo?s Bus Line is the largest company, with some forty percent of the permits, they are only one of some ninety-five operators.?

?There are things happening at the level above me, in the sense of discussion between the creditors, D.F.C. and Atlantic Bank, Belize Bank, and of course the owners, the Novelo family. And I would assume that when that is resolved we will know more.?

He says holiday traffic will not be adversely affected by the receivership?s withdrawal of service.

Glen Tillett
?We will continue to ensure that they will have a safe and reliable commute; that the buses will be there and we won?t leave people stranded on the roadsides. People will be able to get to work, people will be able to be with their families, people will be able to get home for the holidays.?

Karla Heusner reporting for News Five.

Tillett says it is too early to try and forecast the outcome of the current difficulties with the public transportation system, but the Transport Board is looking at a number of possibilities and welcomes the cooperation of the operators currently offering their services to the Belizean public.

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