Much has been said before in this space regarding the minibus code of conduct and the expectations for a much-desired improvement in the service provided. From all appearances, this well-intended initiative has made little or no positive impact on the overall operations. If the intention was just for a focus group then it’s possible some gains may have been made. That said, commuters would guage impact based upon visible improvements, which sad to say, are still to be forthcoming.
The implementation of the code of conduct is never going to be easy, given what has unfortunately become an engrained culture of disrespect for traffic laws and scant regard for passengers’ welfare by many operators. Numerous complaints have been made in the past about harassment of passengers by touts and a few weeks ago, the Police took action and effected many arrests.
While that is welcomed and commendable, it has been long overdue prompting the obvious question; why wasn’t it done earlier and sustained? Not only have commuters pleaded for such Police intervention over time, but there are reports of some operators, who refused to engage the “services” of the touts, being abused and left to languish in their wait for passengers.
Touts, who have no investments in the minibuses, demand a sum that they fix from operators to solicit passengers. In the ensuing competition among them, many passengers, including senior citizens, are tugged back and forth at the various parks. It becomes a nightmare for commuters as all helplessly watch the ill-mannered touts continue their daily reprehensible routine.
It therefore becomes imperative that the Police sustain their crackdown to curb the menace of the touts. Similarly, they must also provide adequate and constant support to those who are working assiduously to implement the code of conduct. The goal is for commuters to be free from harassment in their travel which can possible see the implementation of a monitored turn-system of loading, as in the speedboat operation. Passengers with a personal choice of bus, wait at their own convenience.
This goal is not without challenges. In almost every bus park, there are drivers who adhere to what may exist as a line/turn system of loading. However, there are others operating “special buses”, with no regard for such order and blatantly use selected space to load which generally conflicts with traffic laws. Indivertibly, it leads to an extension in the waiting time by those in the line.
This concern has been raised over time with very sporadic intervention seemingly just to appease for a particular moment. Aggrieved operators have alleged that a high number of the “special buses” are owned by influential persons of which many are from the Police Force. If true, it would probably explain the glaring lack of interest for meaningful intervention as allegations have been levelled against the Police of turning a blind eye; not just to that, but to overloading, loud music, breach of road licence to name a few.
This is where a more holistic approach for improvement in the service becomes difficult unless all operators are treated equally. Some operators indicated that all can benefit and achieve their daily targets without the harassment and frustration if a systematic approach to loading is implemented and to which all must abide. However, abiding seems extremely difficult for some operators who fragrantly refuse to respect traffic laws and their road service licences.
From all understanding, the road service demarks the various routes through specific streets as in the City and roadways for other areas. The reality is that unauthorised streets, even through some villages, are used daily and recklessly by some operators in an effort to avoid traffic lights and to race ahead of others.
The official routes have been designed and agreed for a particular purpose which took safety into consideration. A lack of adherence poses tremendous dangers to residents, including children. It also adds to congestion and heightens risk for other users. In addition, undertaking and cutting abruptly into traffic now appears a legal aspect of driving.
Adding to frustration is that many of these incidents occur in the presence of the Police who cannot claim to be oblivious of this daily practice. If they were to crack down on the use of unauthorised streets and roadways and ensure defaulters feel the brunt of the law, there is a good chance this menace will be curbed. The same for undertaking especially at the approaches of traffic lights. Not too long ago, a minibus toppled and passengers injured as it reportedly tried to undertake, hitting in the process a concrete curb at Diamond.
While the Police can cite challenges in their human resources, there can be no excuse for turning a blind eye when a violation occurs in their presence. Such action, or lack thereof, will only serve to give credence to special and vested interest on their part in the context of the ownership of buses, if not directly; for a colleague. Such scenarios would likely spell doom for the code of conduct. Given the reality, self-interest seems to be taking priority.