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Normality returns to most areas after Monday's transport strike

Transport Minister Daryl Vaz; Superintendent Hopton Nicholson, head of the St. Catherine North Police; and Dion Chance, President of the St. James Taxi Association
By Kimone Witter    
 
Normality has returned to most areas of the transport sector following Monday's withdrawal of services by some operators over penalties under the Road Traffic Act, which have been described as unreasonable.
 
Radio Jamaica News received one report of disruption in St. Catherine where operators on the Spanish Town to Bayside route continued the protest in front of the Spanish Town Police Station.
 
Monday's action affected hundreds of commuters in at least seven parishes.
 
Groups representing bus and taxi operators are now meeting with the Transport Operators Steering Committee to discuss the grouses.
 
The meeting started at 9 a.m., at the Transport Authority's head office.
 
Transport Minister Daryl Vaz is hopeful that the transport operators will allow dialogue to take place without further disruption. 
 
"The reports I received this morning, Tuesday, in relation to the transportation withdrawal which started yesterday, is that based on reports from the police, from the ACP [Gary] McKenzie, from the regional offices of the Transport Authority, that normality seems to be returning. Buses are out, all different types and shapes and routes, and the roadblocks themselves, which were cleared yesterday, have not been re-mounted. So I'm hoping that this trend will continue throughout the morning," he said. 
 
Superintendent Hopton Nicholson, head of the St. Catherine North Police, addressed the minibus operators in St. Catherine who complained that they were being unfairly targeted.
 
Superintendent Nicholson urged them to challenge their traffic tickets in court if they believe them to be unfair. 
 
"I want you know that when the police stop you for a particular offence, what they suspect to be an offence, if they observe other offences, it is legal for them to prosecute you. They can exercise discretion, but I just want you to understand, I don't want you to believe that this is illegal. So sometimes when you end up getting three or four tickets, it is because you have breached. I realize that you are not challenging; most of you are saying that you are not challenging the ticket in court, even when you believe that you are right. I think you should rethink it," he urged the operators.  
 
Hold-off on protest 
 
Dion Chance, President of the St. James Taxi Association, has joined the Transport Minister in appealing to operators to hold-off on their protest action.
 
Mr. Chance said some headway was made at a meeting held earlier this month and he expects that Tuesday's session will also be fruitful.
 
"As long as there is ongoing dialogue on the matter and if things are going in a positive way, I don't see any reason to strike.... You have to give it a chance to see what comes of it, and if there is nothing positive coming, then by all means."   
 
Still, Mr. Chance insisted that there are penalties in the Road Traffic Act that should be adjusted. 
 
"A seatbelt ticket is something that people will get. No qualms about that. But there are a lot of little nuances with it. For instance, if a taxi driver is operating and a passenger comes in the vehicle, in the front of the vehicle, and he asks them to put the seatbelt on and they don't comply, the police stops the driver. The driver is the one who gets the ticket. And we have to deal with the reality," he cautioned, noting that in many volatile communities, if a driver were to ask the non-compliant passenger to leave the vehicle, the driver may no longer be able to operate in that community or could be killed. 
 
Mr. Chance was a guest Tuesday on the Morning Agenda on Power 106.  


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