For the first time in Bermuda’s recent political history, the Reconvening of Parliament will take place in September, instead of November, with the Throne Speech on September 8th.
That was one of the disclosures made by Deputy Premier and Minister of Transport, Walter Roban, in a Bermuda Real interview on Wednesday, on issues plaguing Bermuda’s public transportation system.
The new Progressive Labour Party government’s legislative agenda, will no doubt include plans to facilitate the longstanding issues being addressed as a result of the island’s ageing bus fleet.
The Department of Public Transportation (DPT) reported six more breakdowns yesterday that affected most bus routes. As of Thursday, there were 72 buses out of service out of a fleet of 105, in what was described as a “severe shortage of equipment”. Do the math – that leaves 33 buses in service to work with. And there are those who would suggest that attributing it to a “severe shortage of equipment” would be an understatement.
Mr Roban’s Ministry is also responsible for the Department of Marine & Ports, where there’s another change already in the works. According to the Minister, the business relationship that saw the US ferry Milennium transporting thousands of cruise ship passengers to and from Dockyard to St George’s is over.
The 400-seat ferry was chartered by government in 2013 to increase lift at an annual cost to taxpayers of $1.3 million per cruise ship season. Four years later, the Minister said that relationship “is coming to an end”.
“Work has been done on the Milennium in the US and it is now back in Bermuda. But the relationship is coming to an end, as we are making other arrangements with our cruise partners about the lift, until such time as the government can acquire new vessels for more lift, which is due to our fiscal restraint,” said Mr Roban.
Overall, he said he’s generally happy that the staff at Marine & Ports is “doing what they have to do with what we have”. He also commended them, particularly the ferry crews responsible for transporting hundreds of thousands of cruise ship passengers every year. “And we intend to build on that,” he added.
As Deputy Premier, Mr Roban also noted that when the new PLP administration delivers the new legislative agenda in two weeks, it will be an historic occasion, not just for the PLP, but for the country in general. The 2017 Throne Speech will be delivered in September, two months ahead of the traditional month of November.
“This is a brand new government and a new Parliament. Our mission is to get on with the agenda of running the people’s business and get back to the formal task of governing as soon as possible, which was in our pledged commitment cited in our party platform,” said Mr Roban.
Since his appointment, the Minister has been making rounds to the various departments that come under his Ministry, including meetings at the airport construction site with representatives of the Bermuda Airport Authority and Skyport Limited on Thursday.
The tour was conducted by Aecon representatives. Formal meetings are also scheduled to be held with Aecon soon, on the new multi-million dollar airport redevelopment project the PLP inherited from the former One Bermuda Alliance government.
In part two of this report, we’ll take a closer look at the ongoing issues stemming from Bermuda’s ageing bus fleet, and how the Minister plans to address them moving forward.