Transport fares are expected to go down by 10% effective from 1 August, Robert Sarbah, vice-president of the Ghana Private Transport Union (GPRTU), has said.
In an exclusive interview with Asaase Radio, Sarbah said: “There has been a 10% reduction in lorry fares.
“You know on 11 July there was a 15% increment, in view of the social distancing in our vehicles. President Akufo-Addo decided to ease that restriction … the social distancing in our vehicle is no longer applicable and therefore it makes sense to reduce the lorry fares. Hence the reduction of 10%.”
On why the GPRTU commercial drivers decided to reduce fares by 10%, Sarbah said: “Over the period, the transport operators have incurred very huge losses and the 5% is to ensure that the transport operators recoup some of the losses. That is why we reduced it by 10% instead of the 15%.”
He said the cost of fuel was not factored in to the decision to reduce fares.
“We never took into consideration the cost of fuel, as, per what we have, it’s not up to where we think should affect transport fares,” Sarbah told Asaase Radio.
“The reduction will take effect from 1 August, so, for now, they can keep charging the 15% on the fares. So, for now, if they charge the 15% they are right.”
Effects of COVID-19
Fares were increased by 15%, effective from Saturday 11 July 2020. When the increase was announced, Deputy Transport Minister Nii Kwartei Titus Glover told reporters that the government had made the decision to acknowledge the effect COVID-19 was having on drivers.
However, on Sunday 26 July, President Akufo-Addo, delivering his 14th address to the nation on national measures to curb the coronavirus disease, said that after extensive consultations, the government had decided to begin implementing phase two of easing the restrictions.
“In consultation with the Ministries of Transport and Aviation, and the leadership of transport operators, the government has taken the decision to lift the restrictions in the transport sector, and allow for full capacity in our domestic airplanes, taxis, ‘trotros’ and buses,” President Akufo-Addo said.
He added, “The wearing of masks in vehicles and aircraft, and the maintenance of enhanced hygiene protocols, remain mandatory.”
Although drivers welcomed the new directive, they refused to reduce fares, insisting that these remain the same so far as the price of fuel was not reduced.
Calls for lower fares
Fares for public transport were increased by 15% effective from Saturday 11 July, after commercial drivers complained about losing large amounts of money because of the mandatory reduced intake of passengers.
However, after the announcement that the government was easing social distancting measures for public transport, the pressure group COPEC (Chamber of Petroleum Consumers-Ghana) argued that fares must fall with immediate effect, as drivers will no longer be loading at half-capacity.
In a statement, the Chamber said it is only fair that fares fall, following easing of the restrictions.
“What this directive means is that every revenue that until date has been losing per trip by the commercial transport operators before the announcement … and for which commuters have recently been forced to cough up an additional 15-30% transport fare increase, is now restored in favour of our commercial transport operators … thus the recent increases of between 15-30% must and should be reversed forthwith,” a statement from COPEC said.
It added: “We are, by this statement calling on some of our major stakeholders in the transport sector, including the GPRTU, Concerned Drivers Association, Committed Drivers Association and the Ghana Road Transport Co-ordinating Council, to [ensure] immediately without fail … that transport fares are reversed by close of day tomorrow, not only to previous rates, but a further 5% reduction possibly on the previous rates before these recent increases, since fuel-price variance as at this point remains positive by at least a further 12% from the pre-COVID-19 lockdown period.”
Crunch talks with ministry
Earlier, the GPRTU had said it was holding talks with the Minister of Transport before deciding whether or not to reduce fares.
Speaking on behalf of the drivers’ union, Robert Sarbah said commercial drivers would take a decision based on what their leadership decided.
“We are going to meet with the Ministry of Transport, so whatever will come out from the meeting will be the decision of the union,” he said.
“It is not the preserve of the GPRTU to come up with transport fares. We do so in collaboration with other transport organisations. So we’re going to meet at the Ministry of Transport to see the way forward.”
Asaase correspondents / E A Alanore