'Grave injustice'

Transport group alleges PPV operators targeted in corrupt practice

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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THE Transport Operators Development Sustainable Service (TODSS) is alleging that there is rampant corruption in the wrecker services business and among some members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

According to TODSS President Egeton Newman, operators of public passenger vehicles (PPV) who breach the Road Traffic Act are charged far more for wrecker services than other motorists.

“A grave injustice is being meted out to public transport operators where vehicles are [seized and put on wreckers], in most cases for what is known as them operating contrary [to the road code]... and your bus is [moved] from Hagley Park Road to Lyndhurst Road for $30,000 and over, while it will cost $8,000 if the same bus breaks down and is taken on the same journey,” the president claimed.

A representative from a wrecker company told the Jamaica Observer that it costs $6,000 to transport a car, $8,000 to transport an SUV, and $12,000 to transport a Coaster bus to any destination in Kingston. The representative, who did not want to be named, did not wish to comment on the TODSS allegations.

“We think that for some of these infringements, [police officers] could have warned the driver, but they don't warn the driver. What they do is call the wrecker,” Newman told reporters during a press briefing at Worldtron Automotive on Chelsea Avenue in Kingston on Monday.

“As a matter of fact... if the cost of the wrecker from point A to point B is supposed to be $9,000 and you are charging $25,000 and $30,000, somebody is getting something from that. And if you talk to the wrecker company, they will tell you that is not them set the price,” he continued.

Newman further explained that if the owners were unable to pay the fee charged on the spot, the vehicle would be impounded.

“You would end up paying that $25,000 for the wrecker fee, another $25,000 for pound fee, and when you go to court another $25,000 depending on what the charge is. So it end up costing you $75,000 or $100,000 for that so-called [breach],” he said.

Efforts to get a comment from Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen, head of the constabulary's Public Safety, Traffic and Enforcement Branch, proved futile as his cellphone rang unanswered.

TODSS Director Henleece James added to Newman's assertions.

“Years ago they gave us a guideline, and all of a sudden no one wants to show us anymore. We had a schedule like $7,000 from point A to point B, and $9,000 from there, to there,” James said.

At the same time, Newman said TODSS will present Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague with a report outlining the issues facing transport operators before the end of this week.

The president, while noting that he is calling on the Government to freeze the seizure of PPV over the next 12 months, also suggested that on its resumption, only approved wrecker companies should be used.

He also suggested that a price list should also be published for wrecker services.

Meanwhile, Newman announced that over the next four months, TODSS will be hosting 30 major events and activities across the island to better equip PPV operators with life and customer service skills, among other expertise.

Today, TODSS will kick-start their list of activities with a transport operators finance and investment workshop in Portmore, St Catherine.

Admitting that TODSS was obliged to do a clinical assessment after Minister Montague made the recent 15-point proposal that is now 16, following a consultation meeting to transform the public transport sector in May, Newman insisted that the sector needs a 100 per cent increase in fare or “something to cushion the steep operating cost”.

Outlining a plethora of challenges with which the sector has been grappling, he disclosed that an operator who plies the Kingston to Portmore, St Catherine route pays $3.2 million per year for toll.

Complaining that operators pay $804,000 sub-franchise fees per year to the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, he said TODSS is in dialogue with the State-run bus company to see how best they can reduce the fee for the 300 sub-franchise operators and jointly improve the public transportation network in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region.

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