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Jan 30, 2006

Transport: Red tape kept bus terminals closed

Story PictureFor more than a month now, commuters have been forced to deal with the chaos within the transport industry. Following the recent heavy rains, complaints about the lack of terminal facilities were high on the list of criticisms levelled against Belmopan. In an effort to alleviate the situation, last week Cabinet ordered terminals reopened … but as News Five’s Karla Vernon discovered today, that directive has been caught up in plenty of red tape.

Karla Vernon, Reporting
Despite an executive decision on Tuesday to have the Novelo?s terminals reopened, almost one week later, this morning the main terminal on West Collet Canal in Belize City was still bolted shut, passengers were getting buses from the street, and the taxi drivers were complaining about the lack of customers.

According to Theodore Figueroa, the last few weeks have been tough. Figueroa claims he spends twenty dollars a day driving his cab to and from Ladyville.

Theodore Figueroa, taxi driver, Novelo?s Stand
?If I come out here and I make five dollars or ten dollars, which is the amount that we are making at present, I have to take money from my account, from my savings, to go home and come back everyday; and this has been going on for at least two or three months. Sometimes you are lucky to make maybe a forty-five dollars or a fifty dollars for the day, but it has been really bad out here since the terminal has closed down. We would like for them to open it at its earliest, so that perhaps things can go back to normal and we can start to at least enjoy some of the moments that we have had in the past.?

Karla Vernon
?Did the taxi drivers have a choice of going somewhere else if they were losing everyday? Why not just move on and try to work another part of the city??

Theodore Figueroa
?That would be an excellent choice, but for right now we don?t have that choice. Everybody has been making cooperatives all the over the city. You know the cooperative stands out for themselves, in their particular area and if you are not a member of that cooperative then you cannot work in that area. So you have to stay at your house, as I would say, and this is where we live.?

Commissioner of Transport Phillip Brackett was at the scene today and promised that the terminal would be open for business tomorrow. Brackett admits there have been bureaucratic delays.

Phillip Brackett, Commissioner of Transport
?We are in the process of opening the terminal systematically, we started with Belmopan. And as you may know, Belmopan is one of the main hubs for the north, the south?well all the buses from the different locations sort of converge on Belmopan, so we opened Belmopan on Friday and we plan to open here tomorrow morning. We have been trying to get in the utilities and what not in this terminal, so that has kept us back for maybe a day or so.?

Perhaps in an effort to convince commuters that they are serious about re-opening the terminal, late this afternoon the gates were unlocked. But none of the buses, nor any of the passengers were directed inside the compound, and service continued to operate from the street.

Phillip Brackett
?The rest of the week, next week we will look at the other terminals. But Belmopan and Belize City of course are the main points, so I see like we are sort of half-way through there.?

Commissioner Brackett says the Transport Board is still reviewing its options regarding usage of the terminal and says that as far as he knows, no one has offered to purchase the Novelo?s receivership assets.

Phillip Brackett
?Certainly there is a look at?a strategic look at having central terminals and attempt to bring all the operators into one or two central terminals, partly to have some rationalisation in the industry and partly to ease the traffic congestion that some of these large buses running in the city are causing.?

Karla Vernon
?So no deals, no offers on the table for anybody to buy out??

Phillip Brackett
?Well I am not privy to such information if there is.?

Reporting for News Five, I am Karla Vernon.

Tonight we understand that the receivership assets of the Development Finance Corporation, including buses, will be auctioned off within two weeks.

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