Taxi Drivers Claim Buzza Bus Is Taking Business

Some St Mary’s taxi drivers claim the Buzza Bus, operated by Age Concern on behalf of the Council, is threatening their livelihoods.

And two local cabbies claim they may take their taxis off the road because the work is drying up and it’s no longer financially viable.

The island has already lost one taxi operator this season. New entrant, Dave Pender, gave up after less than six months because of the low level of business.

Duane Ware from DJ Cabs says the Buzza Bus doesn’t affect his service as he operates in the evenings but his colleagues have been hit. He claims some millionaires are making use of the £1 fares and whilst he appreciates that many elderly people benefit from the service, it should be means-tested.

The introduction of the electric bus on St Mary’s in 2010 was a local response to the free bus passes which mainlanders enjoy and is viewed by the Council as a major success, with a significant take up amongst eligible elderly and disabled residents.

Scilly cabs operator Jon MacKenzie was the first Buzza Bus driver and says he worked beyond his scheduled hours because he could see the need for the dial-a-ride service.

But he thinks the authorities here could do more to help cab drivers. Jon says a marked taxi rank in town, maybe on Holgate’s Green, would help as he had nowhere to park when the cruise ships came in.

Councillor Richard McCarthy says he’ll support that idea and take it to the general purposes committee.

Council bosses arranged a meeting for drivers with Age Concern, Council Chair Mike Hicks and Richard on Tuesday, but no taxi drivers turned up. Richard said he felt this was ‘a pity.’

He says the Council is aware that some of the taxi drivers are losing custom this summer and are laying the blame at the door of the Buzza Bus.

Fewer holidaymakers are around and Richard says one of the taxi drivers has suggested that hireable golf buggies are also reducing the number of taxi trips.

He admits it would be impossible to deny that a few residents may have switched to the electric vehicle from conventional taxis. But the vast majority of the 800 journeys being made each month are for disabled people and over 60’s who couldn’t or wouldn’t have otherwise made these trips.

And Richard says that the Buzza Bus, which has easy wheelchair access, is only on the road for about 30 hours a week and doesn’t run every morning or every afternoon, and not at all in the evenings or on Sundays.

The Memory Cafes on Wednesdays and Fridays wouldn’t be so successful without the Buzza Bus ferrying members around, says Richard and he’s pleased that the service offers social benefits that allow people who wouldn’t normally get out so often to go shopping, to swim at Normandy Pool or see friends at a price they can afford.


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