Fuel/fare hikeThe Business Ministry (MoB) has finally met with officials from the United Minibus Union (UMU) to address pending issues affecting the transportation sector after calls had been made to increase the minibus fares following the recent hike in fuel prices.Business Minister Dominic Gaskin met members of the UMU and a representative of the Consumer Protection Division on Wednesday, and their discussions were centred on a proposal submitted by the union in regard to the fare increase.In its proposal to increase the fares for minibus travel, the Union highlighted a number of increases in the operating costs faced by minibus owners over the years. They added that in those instances, there had been no corresponding increase in minibus fares.Meanwhile, the quality of the service provided by minibus operators was also discussed. It was agreed that the MoB would undertake an analysis of the cost of operating minibuses along the various licensed routes for the purpose of assessing the proposal for a fare increase.To this end, the United Minibus Union provided data on various aspects of the sector, and agreed to provide additional data where necessary upon request.Additionally, the need for mandatory training for drivers and conductors as well as better enforcement of existing laws and regulations were also discussed.Officials from the MoB agreed to examine these matters and make recommendations for the consideration of Cabinet and the Union. The two sides would then meet again in one month’s time.Over the past weeks, the cost of gasoline has been significantly increased countrywide, and minibus drivers were protesting for an increase in fares. In some instances, the fares were even raised by the minibus operators, and commuters were left with no choice but to pay the amount of money that was demanded.= Notices were put up in the vehicles demanding fares be increased by as much as $40. However, UMU President Eon Andrews had expressed views against this act.While stating that he understood that drivers operate in a free-market system, he explained that this meant that persons were left with the decision of choosing whether or not to pay the increase. It was also communicated earlier this month that minibus operators are unwilling to lower the proposed fare hike of $20 or $40 even if the price for gasoline is decreased, because they are faced with many burdensome expenditures, which are compounded by the fluctuating gas prices.Desperate to get the attention they need, drivers blocked the Vryheid’s Lust access road along the East Coast Railway Embankment. Several tyres were burnt, and an old car was set on fire to garner the attention needed, with the hope of having the fuel crisis addressed.Several protests were also organised by drivers of the various routes subsequent to this incident. Gas station prices for fuel have increased rapidly, from $215 per litre to prices ranging from $230 to $250 per litre.