No plans to take over Berbice bridge, but gov’t interested in reducing tolls- Pres. Ali

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President Dr. Irfaan Ali says that the government does not intend on taking ownership of the Berbice River Bridge, but he has committed to engaging stakeholders on reducing the steep tolls.

While frankly engaging residents of Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) during three community outreach meetings on Monday, the President continuously acknowledged the plight of Berbicians and those who travel into the region.

For example, it costs the owner of a private car $2200 to cross the bridge. With a government subsidy, the fare actually paid is $1,900- a reduced amount, but still a costly sum.

The toll increases for other types of vehicles seeking to cross the bridge; the subsidy, similarly, increases.

And on Monday, based on local media reports, the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce (CCCC) called on the government to take ownership of the bridge- citing the high cost of travel.

“We believe in a free, open society. A government can’t come and take over the bridge,” the President said in response to the Chamber’s calls.

President Irfaan Ali addressing residents of Region Six on Monday morning (Photo: News Room/April 11, 2022)

He, however, emphasised that the government is willing to work with stakeholders to craft viable solutions for the Berbice Bridge Company Inc. (BBCI) and commuters alike.

Calls for a government takeover of the bridge have been long existent. In fact, to avoid exorbitant toll increases, the previous administration had taken over the operation of the bridge for a period.

At that time, the BBCI planned to increase the tolls for cars from $2200 to $8040; minibuses from $2200 to $8040; pickups from $4000 to $14600; 4WD from $4000 to $14600; small trucks from $4000 to $14600; medium trucks from $7600 to $27720; large trucks from $13600 to $49600; articulated trucks from $32,000 to $116,680 and boats from $110,000 to $401,040.

The bridge company had argued that it was nearing bankruptcy and was qualified to apply for a toll increase in 2014, but several applications to the then Ministry of Public Infrastructure were ignored.

Though there has not been recently stated intentions to hike the fares again, some residents and business people complained that the costly fares hinder some amount of economic activity.

And as the government plans to heighten this activity in the region, they believe the tolls should be reduced.

President Ali assured the residents that he was not ignorant of their plight.

“If the stakeholders want to engage the government, we will and if we can do something to reduce the cost, you can believe the last dollar you have that this is a government that will embrace that action,” the Head-of-State emphasised.

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