Buses Find it Difficult to Operate Below Capacity

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Lifting the ban on buses with the restriction of 20 passengers as a maximum has placed bus owners in a dilemma to continue the public transport service at less than optimum levels of profitability.

Andy Setoa of Trinity Transport says he has eight buses, but he says he is only operating two since the amended SOE orders, to offer the service for people from rural areas needing to get to work.

The Land Transport Authority has offered assistance to all buses through a COVID-19 stimulus package which essentially gives buses free registration for the year, forgoing payments of March, June and September (or June, Sept and Dec if March registrations have been paid).

Andy Setoa of Trinity Transport works the Satapuala route.

However Andy Setoa says he does not disagree with Government’s position to safeguard Samoa, however, it is difficult to operate a bus on his Satapuala route at only 2/3rds capacity and feels sorry for buses that operate routes even further out of Apia.

E feoloolo la a’u e moi a o Satapuala – e le mamao le alu a a’u pasi, fua la i nai pasi mai le mamao i tuā, e lē laititi le gau”.

“Ua ala lava ona feoai a’u pasi e lua o lo’u manatu i nai tagata nei faapea mai ua ou le ano atu ae o lea ua tatala mai le sa, ae o le taimi nei ia e lē o lelei le tulaga lea e iai mo tupe maua.”

Mr Setoa says most of the $60 tala per trip goes straight to diesel costs. He explains that the fixed costs of maintenance for buses cannot be met with the variable income now imposed.

“Makua gau a, o le aso e tasi na’o le $60 le tupe mama e maua, na pau le vaega lea o loo sikuea o pamu penisini aua a maua le tupe a le pasi e sasaa uma lava i le kiso (diesel);.

Another bus owner, Mulipola Vasa Mulipola has operated buses with his brother for over 15 years. The 39 year old father of three has started to operate one of their buses on the Manono route this week but says he doesn’t know how much in wages he will be able to earn after diesel and other costs.
“O le pasese e agai mai ai mai i Manono i Apia e $5 a le tagata e toatasi..o lona uiga la e maua le $100 i le malaga e tasi, ia, ae lē o tagata uma e omai i Apia nei. O le kiso e utu i le malaga e tasi e i le va o le $60 ma le $70 tala – a fua la iai, matua’i gau lava.”
Mulipola of Beyond the Blue buses.
Mulipola breaks down the costs and says it will be impossible to earn the $1,445 tala quoted as the cost for annual registration of his bus.
He says he used to earn $500 tala per week as an income for his family. This week, he adds, he is uncertain how much he would be able to take home.
“O le isi itu faigata, o tupe ia sa maua sa faamoemoe e pasi ai le taavale, o le taimi nei tusa lava pe iai le faamama avega i masina ia ua tu’usaunoaina ai le lesitala mo taavale, ia ae a fua atu i le tupe lea e maua i le taimi nei, o manaoga o le pasi, o lo’u totogi – e le taitai ona ausia le $1445.00 lea e pasi ai le taavale.”

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