BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, August 4, 2021 (MMS-SKN) — While passenger bus (H series) owners and drivers operating from the East Line and West Line Bus Terminals in Basseterre have enjoyed relative comfort since the two terminals were built by the Team Unity Government, their colleagues on the St. Peter’s Bus Route have not been that lucky.
Newly elected St. Peter’s Bus Association members sought to have their predicament addressed, and according to President of the Association Mr Andrew ‘Talbo’ Bass, it took them by surprise when Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris agreed to meet with them on Monday August 2, which was a public holiday.
“Prime Minister came to listen to us,” said Mr Bass in reference to their meeting which was held on the College Street Ghaut where the St. Peter’s buses drop and pick up passengers. Prime Minister Harris was accompanied by Senior Physical Planner in the Department of Physical Planning, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Mr Austin Farier.
Other officials of the St. Peter’s Bus Association present were Vice President Mr Devon ‘Smooth’ Caines, Treasurer Mr Orville ‘Sailor’ Thompson, and Public Relations Officer Mr Delroy ‘Pabo’ Carey. Elections to usher in new office bearers were held on Sunday July 25. Prime Minister Harris congratulated them on their election.
“I could say that I know for a fact that the Prime Minister is a caring man – a very good man,” said Mr Bass who has operated buses for over thirty years. “He loves people and he listens and he always tries his best. In all my dealings with him, he always tries his best to see how he could reach out and help to make the situation better than what it is. For that, I appreciate him a lot, and I think he is doing a very good job.”
Giving a historical background of their operations, Mr Bass said that his father, Mr George Bass, is the one who started passenger bus services in St. Peter’s. In those days, buses from the St. Peter’s area used to operate from bottom of Victoria Road (top of Fort Street), at the intersection with Cayon Street, where a gas station is located.
“That used to be the bus stop, but as years went by and traffic got heavier they relocated us into College Street Ghaut,” said Mr Bass. “Operating in the ghaut we have some challenges and it gets worse now as the years go by.”
The biggest challenge, which also poses danger to both the bus operators and passengers, is when it rains heavily water from the St. Peter’s mountain area is channelled through the College Street Ghaut which runs heavily like a seasonal river. When that happens the buses cannot be parked in the area without risking them being washed away.
“Even if the ghaut is not running that full, sometimes passengers still have a problem crossing the street to get to the bus depending on which side you come from,” observed President Bass.
He also pointed out to the fact that they do not have a shelter and when bus operators are waiting in the line, which sometimes takes more than one and half hours, they have no place to rest and are forced to sit in their buses, which become hot and if they put on the A/C that becomes expensive to them as the engine has to be running and thus consuming fuel.
They as a result use the veranda of a disused private home to shelter from the heat, but which can only take a few of them. There is also no place where they could even buy a drink or food, and there are no bathroom facilities.
He recalled of a driver who was in the queue for nearly two hours, and when he had only three buses ahead of him before he could pick up passengers, he had a sudden urge to go to the bathroom which he did but when he returned his spot had been taken and had to wait at the end of the queue.
“These are the challenges which we are facing and it is really getting worse,” said Mr Bass. “Even passengers sometimes we come down and we put them down, and there is no place for them to shelter when we put them out in the rain. So it forces us now to basically be driving up and down in town to drop them somewhere where they could shelter or at least close to their workplace.”
Prime Minister Harris also reminded the bus operators that they will be pushed up further on College Street Ghaut when traffic lights at the intersection of College Street and Cayon Street are commissioned.
“So it is a real challenge,” concluded Mr Bass. “We really would like to relocate to another spot. If not a permanent place for now, we would accept a temporary spot which is much better than this.”