Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Big water taxi losses spark fear of closure

'Pressure for southern commuters'


concerns: Joint Select Committee (JSC) members Senator Lyndira Oudit, left, and Social Integration Minister Clifton De Coteau at yesterday's sitting of the Joint Select Committee in Port of Spain. —Photo: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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JOINT Select Committee (JSC) member Senator Lyndira Oudit has expressed concern that a report on the financial losses of the water taxi service sounded like a "pre-exit strategy".

"I am really fearful that was to happen. And I speak on behalf again of the southern people who use (it), many of them who commute and work in Port of Spain," she said.

She was speaking yesterday as officials of the Works Ministry and Transport Ministry met with the JSC Group 2 at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

Earlier in the meeting, JSC member Fitzgerald Jeffrey noted in the report that annual expenditure on the water taxi service was $47 million but the revenue was only $7 million.

He said the report "frightens" him because it gave the indication that the service may be discontinued.

He said cost and revenue were not the only factors to take into consideration but also the cost to the Treasury for all the man hours and productivity lost by commuters on the roads.

He also suggested that the service be linked with his constituency of La Brea.

He said the Port of Spain terminal for the water taxi service was "all right" but the San Fernando terminal was "substandard" with "poor facilities" for commuters and parking was a "nightmare".

Jeffrey said more people would use the service if a multi-storey parking facility was constructed and pointed out that an improved water taxi service would substantially reduce traffic congestion.

Transport Ministry permanent secretary Verna Johnson in response said there was an issue of viability with the water taxi service and a cost to running it.

She said the ministry has hired a consultant to work with it to see if it should be continued or expanded.

Oudit pointed out that the main issue with the service was parking and this was a deterrent to her and other citizens as she could not park her car "on the side of the road".

She suggested that the "lover's lane" area near the San Fernando General Hospital could be utilised for parking, washroom facilities and a cafeteria for the service.

She said the service was losing money because it was not utilised enough but there were people willing to use the service if parking is addressed.