The National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT) plans to reintroduce the Public Service Commuter course, which was previously offered at the Sir Arthur Community College, in the near future. The course was suspended a couple of years ago.
President of the NCOPT Godfrey Ferdinand told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) in an exclusive interview today, September 2 that this move was prompted by complaints about the inappropriate behaviour of some minibus drivers on a few minibus routes on island.
Ferdinand said the council will look to have the matter discussed at greater length with the transport ministry to assist with the re-introduction of the course.
The president stated the NCOPT plans to make it mandatory, where all minibus operators will be required to complete the course, before having their licenses renewed.
He admitted that many minibus operators need training, and in some cases, retraining.
Asked to comment on recent reports of passengers being verbally and physically abused by minibus operators, Ferdinand told SNO that the NCOPT has received such reports.
However, he explained that a disciplinary committee has been put in place to deal with matters of that nature. The committee falls under the transport ministry and directed by the minister. It is headed by former speaker of the House of Assembly, Matthew Roberts. Three members each from the NCOPT and the ministry, along with the chair, sit on that committee.
Every complaint, he said, is treated seriously. An investigation is usually conducted and based on the findings, the committee institutes disciplinary action if necessary.
Ferdinand told SNO the NCOPT had situations where individuals were sent for counseling, while in some cases some of them were barred. But, on most instances, the council tries to assist defaulters to better their interpersonal and customer service skills.
“In the case where someone is hurt, the individual passenger or commuter understands that they have a legal right to report the matter to the police,” he explained.
The NCOPT president asserted that that type of hostile and inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated within the sector and the disciplinary committee will ensure that this happens.
Asked whether he believes that minibus operators are aware that a hike in minibus fare has not taken effect, Ferdinand said 99 per cent of the bus drivers are. However, he stated that there are some drivers who would want to beat the system by demanding more money. He said in such cases, passengers are urged to contact the council, to make an official complaint, and the matter will be investigated.
Ferdinand told SNO he is hopeful that there will be changes in the negative behaviour exercised by some minibus operators with the reintroduction of the training course.