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Taxi operators withdraw service to protest high ticket fines, other issues

By Lorraine Mendez/Kimone Witter

There was a wave of protests early Monday morning as taxi and bus operators across several parishes stayed off the job.

The public passenger vehicle operators are calling for the government to address several issues they say have been negatively affecting their operations.

In St. Catherine, taxi operator Shawn Miller told Radio Jamaica News that he and his colleagues are contending with the heavier fines imposed under the new Road Traffic Act, what they term police harassment, as well as the absence of designated drop off and pick up points in Spanish Town.

"So make some set down points for us so we can know seh this is the designated area for the passengers," he urged. 

"You cyah pay $10,000 just fi set down somebody. You nah block di road setting down that person enuh but you want change wi $10,000 from a ticket weh a come from $2,500. How we aguh survive? Minimum wage a $9,000," the taximan complained. 

Radio Jamaica News was informed that classes were suspended at Guy's Hill High School today, due to the withdrawal of service by public passenger vehicle operators.

Hundreds of commuters were also left stranded in Brown's Town, St. Ann's Bay, Ocho Rios, Cave Valley and Claremont in St. Ann.

After staging their protest from 5 o'clock Monday morning, bus and taxi operators in Brown's Town travelled in a convoy to join their counterparts in Ocho Rios.

A 35-year-old veteran in the business, Roy Bennett said he participated in the protest in the hope that the fines under the new Road Traffic Act and Regulations can be reduced.

Mr. Bennett said he is among those motorists with multiple outstanding tickets. 

"It very hard fi wi sometimes fi deal with the ticket dem enuh because we get so much tickets daily enuh, cause sometimes you nuh even know that yah bruck di law, but di law end up dats you break di law enuh. So we a try fi see if dem coulda gi we a roll back pon di ticket prices because it pressuring yuh know." 

Bus owner Norman Simms is protesting the four tickets his driver received on Saturday, valued at a total $20,000.

Mr. Simms said some of the infractions that attract fines are impractical.

The taxi operators say the strike could last for three days.