By Sailu Bah
Commercial vehicle drivers at the Barra car park, one of the busiest in the country, lamented the high cost of fuel and poor condition of roads as major constrains in their work. As a major hub, this car park serves passengers travelling to different destinations both inside and outside of the Gambia.
Talking to this reporter on Saturday, 9th August 2014, the commercial vehicle drivers explained the difficulties they are facing in having to manage with the high cost of fuel and the poor condition of the dirt/laterite roads.
“The cost of diesel fuel has increased many times this year without any corresponding increase of fares which is really affecting those of us who cover long distances,” lamented Alassan Ceesay, a “Gelleh Gelleh” van driver plying the Barra – Albreda route.
Ceesay said he buys 5 ½ litres of diesel at D700 for every return trip to Albreda and only makes little profit at the end of the day which is insufficient to serve the needs of the owner, driver and vehicle.
Yaya Bajo, a driver who also covers the Upper Nuimi route, complained about the poor condition of the road which, he said, is not tarred. He said the rugged nature of the roads shorten the life span of their vehicles, the majority of which are reconditioned or second hand. He called on the government to consider constructing or upgrading the roads that serve many villages and sustain economic activities.
The drivers also lamented the poor condition of the car park which they said was not properly constructed and is prone to flooding when it rains. They also decried the filth and odour caused by the indiscriminate dumping of uncollected litter.
When these complaints of drivers were raised with Bolong Jaiteh and Adama Cham, who are said to be the heads of the car park management or chef de garage, acknowledged their awareness of the concerns such as the high cost of fuel, the stagnant fares, the condition of the roads and car park.
As for the fuel issue, the two said this is a global problem and that there is nothing they can do about it.
On the complaint of the stagnation of fares in the face of the frequent increases of fares, Cham said they do not have the power to decide on any increase, adding that this is the responsibility of the Transport Union.
He said they are urging the drivers to be patient with the current situation and see if the fuel price will come down and that if it does then those in charge can be approached for a solution.
He also said they are advising drivers not to overload passengers in their vehicles in order to cover the high fuel cost.
On the issue of the road conditions, Jaiteh said this is a matter for the government to address and that they are appealing for its intervention to help fix the said roads.
Jaiteh also called on the regional authorities to help in addressing the problem of flooding at the car park.
He concluded that their role is merely to facilitate the movement of vehicles in an out of the car park and to also serve as the channel of communication between the drivers and the Transport union, but not to take decisions on the issues raised by the drivers.