Long-awaited electric buses for the Transport Board that rolled off a freighter at the Bridgetown Port Wednesday morning will be accessible to wheelchair users, Minister of Transport Dr William Duguid declared.

He noted the “historic” and “memorable” first in which public transport has been designed to accommodate people with disabilities He told journalists that the 33 buses which arrived from Panama, are capable of kneeling to allow for easy access for people in wheelchairs. The buses also have ramps and foldable seats for the wheelchairs.

Dr Duguid said: “These are fully airconditioned buses that will be WI-FI enabled as well. So this is a complete transformation and it is the largest electric fleet of buses in the Caribbean. And we are very proud and very thankful for all of the people who worked hard, night and day, to get us to this point where we now have 33 electric buses landed in Barbados.”

Flanked by Transport Board officials, Dr Duguid said the buses will hit the roads as soon as they are commissioned. Each bus accommodates 62 passengers with 25 seated, 36 standing and one wheelchair user.

He said: “This has been two years of consistent work. These kinds of buses are not normally designed for people who drive on the left-hand side. So we had to develop a specification for the bus, then have the bus designed, then have it actually built.

“So we were continuing to work, we weren’t making a lot of noise about it, but we are happy now that what was a dream, what was something to change Barbados, to transform us from using diesel buses to using electric buses, has been changed from a dream to a reality when 33 buses are being offloaded and will soon be on the roads of Barbados.”

The transport minister said a team of experts from Panama was flown to Barbados to work with mechanics and other personnel to ensure that the buses are road-ready. But he was unable to give a date as to when the buses will be on the road.

Dr Duguid said while the electric buses are costly, they will last longer since less maintenance is required than for the diesel fleet, thereby making them more costeffective.

Peter Phillips, Co-Minister of Transport, said the Government is keeping its promise to improve the public transport system through the importation of additional buses. Following many complaints from the travelling public, the ministry intended to continue to improve the service offered by the state-owned bus company.

“You would have seen improvement in recent times,” said Phillips. “COVID would have stopped us to some extent but right now we are ready to take off; everything is virtually in place and we are going to have these buses on the road as quickly as possible.” anestahenry@barbadostoday.bb