In an effort to avoid huge increases to the tolls, Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson on Monday issued an order declaring that the Government will take over the maintenance and operation of the Berbice River Bridge “hopefully” for a temporary period.
“In accordance with the powers conferred upon the Minister by Sections 4 (1) and 11 of the Berbice River Bridge Act, in the interests of public safety, the Minister issued (today) an Order declaring that the functions of the Concessionaire to maintain and operate the Bridge shall be exercised by the Government of Guyana as of 5th November 2018 until the date the Minister specifies by notice on the cessation of the threat to public safety,” a statement from the Ministry outlined on Monday morning.
According to section 11 of the Berbice Bridge Act, “A function exercisable by the Concessionaire may, be exercised by the Government -in the event of a national emergency declared by the President; or if the Minister determines that its exercise is necessary or expedient in the interests of public.”
This power can also be exercised if the Concessionaire has defaulted in the performance of its obligations under the Concession Agreement.
The Ministry assured that it will do everything to alleviate disruption to the public and ensure that the assumption of these functions is as smooth as possible.
There will be no change to the present toll structure and all exemptions presently in place will remain in effect.
Additionally, there will be no change to the staffing complement, contractors and suppliers as we transition into this new and hopefully temporary arrangement.
The action by the Minister comes two days after the Berbice Bridge Company Limited (BBCI) issued an ultimatum for the Government to extend its concession period to 40 years –an additional 19 years from the current period.
The BBCI said the extension to its concessionaire will allow it to withdraw the implementation of the toll adjustments announced on October 16.
In the Minister’s statement, he noted that given the BBCI’s demands, “we do not envision a swift resolution to this crisis.”
However, the Ministry assured that it will be continuing dialogue with BBCI in expectation of an amicable resolution to the dispute.