Zane DeSilva, Minister of Tourism & Transport

Transport Minister Zane DeSilva has conceded that scrapping the new bus schedule was the only recourse for the Department of Public Transportation (DPT) “to address the concerns” of passengers and bus operators.

In a Ministerial Statement delivered in the Lower House on Friday, Mr DeSilva said the decision to revert to the old bus schedule “was not taken lightly”.

Admittedly, he said there was no way the new 50-bus schedule implemented in March could meet the demand for lift by “commuters, visitors and students”.

“Additionally, there were challenges with the rest times between some trips, presenting health and safety concerns for bus operators and the travelling public,” said the Minister.

“The ministry, unions and Department of Public Transportation have fostered stronger working relations, demonstrated in part by our ability to agree the definition of night work and collectively develop and implement work rosters,” he added.

On a positive note, he also noted that the average in-service bus count over the past year was up to 65 buses from 50 due to new bus purchases, repairs and refits.

“We have taken possession of six new buses in the past year, with a further six buses arriving between June and September,” said Mr DeSilva.

The DPT has also completed a Request for Information for new buses while preparing a Request for Proposal.

“We are taking this opportunity to review the bus market and available vehicle types that meet Bermuda’s needs, as well as international public transportation standards.

“This includes consideration for sustainability and the environment, appropriately sized buses, accessibility, on-board features, and total cost of ownership.

“We are in the process of recruiting for a variety of posts including vehicle technicians, operators and support staff.”

In hindsight, he said the public bus system experienced a “learning curve” in the wake of this latest controversy.

The new bus schedule was first announced at a news conference held in December and was initially set to go into effect in January.

That launch was postponed twice amid concerns raised by bus operators, including health and safety issues.

The new schedule, which has been in the making for 17 years, lasted for six weeks and has yet to be completed.