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Our View: Government should act on bus safety fears

THE ROW triggered by differences between shareholders of the Nicosia bus company OSEL continued yesterday over the airwaves, even though bus transport was largely restored in the Nicosia rural areas. The shareholder that had caused the disruption of services by blocking access to the Arediou bus terminal was on the radio again firing salvoes at the communications minister for failing to resolve the problem and at his fellow shareholders for allegedly hiring their relatives on high wages.

A community leader also spoke on a radio show, complaining that OSEL had decided not to use the Arediou terminal, announcing that the temporary terminal would be on a road, in the middle of the country side “next to the sandwich van”. There was no covered area or facilities he complained. We can only guess that OSEL decided not to use the existing terminal because that was under the control of the shareholder that had caused all the problems. In short, the bickering is set to go on.

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Marios Demetriades, who has come under much criticism for failing to solve the problem, has been at pains explaining that the row among the shareholders is not the government’s business. This is correct, given that the government is buying services from OSEL, which is made up of bus-owners, and does not own it. What the government could re-examine are the contracts it has with the two bus companies. These were drafted and signed during the Christofias presidency and have been a constant cause of problems and disputes, primarily over money.

This was inevitable given that the previous government was especially generous with regard to the financial arrangements, in order to persuade the bus owners to set up the bus companies that would serve the public. The terms agreed, understandably, have been the subject of much criticism and this government has tried to rationalise them without much success. It cannot exactly threaten to offer the contract to another firm, because of the allegations of mismanagement at OSEL.

What it can do is demand explanations from the company after the allegations, by the shareholder who went on ‘strike’, that the buses were not being serviced regularly, in order to cut costs. This could put passengers at risk and the government has an obligation to seek explanations from the companies as well as demand documentation about the safety of the buses. If anything goes wrong nobody will blame the bickering shareholders, they would blame the government for failing to ensure people’s safety.

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