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As drivers defy reduction in transport fares…

Commuters say measure has no impact

February 16, 2015 With Ibrahim Tarawallie

Just days after oil marketers announced the reduction in pump prices for petroleum products, the government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, met with the executive of the Motor Drivers Union and other stakeholders in the transport sector to press for a reduction in commuter fares. The outcome of the meeting saw a reduction in commuter fares from Le1,000 to Le900 within the city, among other fares to destinations across the country.

However, drivers have defied the public notice put out by the Ministry of Transport to reduce fares.

Concord Times’ Ibrahim Tarawallie went in and about Freetown on Friday to gauge the views of commuters and drivers to know whether the reduction has impacted them in anyway.

Below is what they have to say:

Mohamed Kamara – Trader in wax cottons at Lumley

Yes I am quite aware that government has reduced the fare to Le900 for city services, but yet still we are paying Le1,000 to drivers without getting our change in return. For me, the reduction has not in any way impacted on us because the prices of foodstuff and other commodities are increasing on a daily basis.

It is my belief that when fuel prices go down and transport fares reduced, it should have an impact on us passengers.

We are calling on the police to be vigilant in the enforcement of this public notice because drivers are charging us more for our small markets. Actually, I think we should be paying Le800 to drivers because of the Le750 reduction in fuel price.

Ishmael B. Koroma – Resident of Regent

Before the advent of the Ebola virus disease we were paying Le1,500 from bus station to Regent village, but we are now paying Le2,000 even though the government has announced a reduction in transport fares. Drivers are refusing to give us our change and for me, the reduction means nothing because things are still the way they are before the reduction.

This dramatic reduction in the fuel price has not reflected on the ordinary people. Drivers do charge us exorbitant prices for our goods. In fact, taxi drivers do charge Le5,000 from Government Wharf to Regent.

We have no option because vehicle scarcity is hitting us hard since the ban on right-hand drive vehicles came into effect in January. The only thing that will salvage the situation is for the law enforcement agencies to force drivers to abide by the new transport fares announced by the government.

Ibrahim Macarthy – Works at Tumac Radio

The reduction means absolutely nothing to me because I am still paying Le1,000 to town and Le2,000 to Waterloo even though the government said we should pay Le900 and Le1,500 respectively. Honestly, I was hoping that when there is a reduction in transport fares, it should reflect on the prices of commodities but that is not the case. Prices of commodities are going up everyday instead of coming down.

My brother, the drivers are refusing to adhere to the reduction by government. In fact some drivers even fight passengers when you insist on paying the Le900 announced by the government.

Edward Kamara – Businessman

I was very happy when government announced the reduction of transportation fares but sadly it is not working because we are still paying the same amount to drivers as before.

Sometimes when we insist on paying drivers the Le900 stipulated by government, they fight us and even seize our things. So honestly the reduction has not impacted my life in anyway because everything remains the same.

I am therefore calling on Traffic Warden officers to arrest drivers that are flouting the rules. Even the Le900 is still expensive; at least the government should have reduced it to Le800.

Alfred Swarray – Driver

Indeed there has been a reduction in fuel prices but just a minimal one. Initially we used to buy a litre of fuel at Le4,500 but now it has been reduced to Le3,750. But that does not mean we can reduce the transportation fares, mind you we have dropped four passengers.

Besides I am not aware of any reduction in the transportation fares, nobody has told me that. I have not heard it on radio or any other source. And in fact no passenger has ever asked or grumbled to us about not giving them change.

Yes, I am willing to reduce the transportation fare if the government instructed me to do so. I would have no alternative. We elected the government and we must respect it.

Umaru Sow – Drives from Government Wharf to Regent

I am aware about the reduction in transport fares by the government through the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, but some of us are not happy because we were expecting it to remain the same. Drivers are still taking three or four passengers as the case may be, so we cannot adhere to the reduction until we start taking the normal amount of passengers.

Also, there are no coins to give to passengers when they pay us Le1,000. Even when we buy fuel at the station, the sales people never return our balance. This is the same between us and the passengers. But I am happy because the passengers themselves are not requesting for change.

Amidu Kamara – Driver plying from Regent Road to Lumley

The reduction in the prices of petroleum products means nothing to us because if you buy one litre at Le3,750, you will never receive your change because of the shortage of coins.

In fact, I am not even aware about the reduction and so I would not be forced to adhere to it. Interestingly, no passenger has ever attacked me to return his or her change.

Government needs to address this situation because I don’t think passengers are aware about this development. I will continue to collect Le1,000 until we revert to the normal amount of passengers we should take.

Alhaji Kamara – Driver plying the Model Junction to Tree-Planting Community route

The reduction in fuel prices has not reflected on us. We are very disappointed with the government’s decision because they should ensure that the reduction impacts on the prices of commodities as well.

But prices of other commodities still remain the same, so why do we need to reduce transportation fares.

Transport fares will remain like this until the situation is properly addressed. We will not reduce it until the prices of other goods are reduced. This is complete biasness on the side of the government. They are concerned about reducing transport fares but not the prices of other goods.