Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Robinson urges Gov’t to put brakes on JUTC losses

Published:Saturday | March 11, 2023 | 12:54 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

Julian Robinson, the opposition spokesman on finance, has accused the Government of making the Jamaica Urban Transit Company Limited (JUTC) unattractive and unviable. He said that urgent action was needed to rescue the entity from crumbling.

Making his contribution to the 2023-2024 Budget Debate in Parliament on Thursday, Robinson bemoaned that, over the four-year period between 2015-2016 and 2019-2020, the number of rides on JUTC buses fell by a third, from 61.5 million to 41 million.

He said the Statistical Institute of Jamaica reported that the Transport Authority increased the number of licences issued to contract carriage, hackney carriage and route taxis from 17,465 in 2016 to 34,550 in 2019. This represents a 97 per cent increase, which boosted the government coffers by $400 million.

However, Robinson said that, at the same time, the JUTC saw a fall in revenue by $1.6 billion.

“Those policies have led the JUTC to where it is right now,” he said on Thursday.

“When you have more taxis on the road, it means that the taxi man has to hustle harder because him a compete with more people. So you contribute to the indiscipline on the road by the number of licences that are provided while the JUTC fleet has not been replenished,” he said.

While acknowledging the Government’s pledge to provide 70 new buses this year and another 200 over a two-year period, Robinson indicated that very little might change without a serious look at the management of the state-owned bus company.

However, he conceded that, without resources, the management could not bring about meaningful change in the company’s operation.

He said the JUTC has projected to execute 18 million rides this fiscal year, which ends in March, and is expected to get to 31 million at the end of the 2023-2024 fiscal year.

Robinson said that this represents half of the total passengers that the bus company carried six years ago.

“Understand what that means. When people go to a bus stop, dem can’t get the bus, so they have to go in the taxis, and, because you have so many taxis, they are fighting for the passengers,” he reasoned.

He urged the Government to correct the chaotic state of affairs in the transportation system.

The JUTC has been dogged by huge losses over the years, with the company projecting an operating loss of $11.4 billion for the upcoming financial year.

This represents a $2.6 billion increase in the cash-strapped state-owned bus company’s operating loss over the current 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Last year, the company racked up an operating loss amounting to $8.8 billion.