The Government of Guyana today announced that it has made a decision to take control of the Berbice Bridge in the interest of public safety.
In a statement issued this morning, the Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson announced that “in accordance with the powers conferred upon the Minister by Sections 4 (1) and 11 of the Berbice River Bridge Act, in the interests of public safety, the Minister issued (today) an Order declaring that the functions of the Concessionaire to maintain and operate the Bridge shall be exercised by the Government of Guyana as of 5th November 2018 until the date the Minister specifies by notice on the cessation of the threat to public safety.”
The statement added that the Government will do everything in its powers to alleviate disruption to the public and ensure that the assumption of these functions is as smooth as possible.
“The truth is, too many of our citizens are dependent on the continuous operations and use of the Berbice Bridge and we should not allow anyone to unreasonably and capriciously endanger their livelihood and public order in one of our vital regions”, the Minister said.
He added that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure would like to assure the citizens of Berbice and the public in general that there will be no change to the present toll structure and all exemptions presently in place will remain in effect.
“Equally, there will be no change to the staffing complement, contractors and suppliers as we transition into this new and hopefully temporary arrangement”.
Minister Patterson said the Government and the Board of Directors of the Berbice Bridge Company Limited (BBCI) have been engaged in a public dispute regarding a unilateral announcement on October 16, 2018 by the Bridge company to impose “draconian toll increases at the Berbice River Bridge.”
The Berbice Bridge Company wants to increase tolls by more than 300% and last Friday issued a letter to the Government demanding an extension of the concession on the bridge by 19 years if it does not want the increases to go ahead.
Today, the Government said it has stated publicly that it cannot support the “unreasonable demand for an increase in toll on the public which is based on a flawed formula and computation”.
The Government announced that as it takes control, it intends to continue dialogue with the Bridge Company in expectation of an amicable resolution to the dispute.