By Kebba Secka
Some of the commercial drivers who ply between West Field and Brikama and from Serekunda to the Coastal Road areas, say the double fares they ask from passengers have significantly improved their earnings.
Some of them regret the challenges it poses to travelers, but put the blame on the lack of good road networks.
Samba Ndow, a driver who plies between Serekunda and Coastal Road, said before he started charging passengers double fares for a trip, he was dismissed many times by his previous employers for falling short of the financial requirements of his contract; that vehicles do not consume water but fuel and their employers do not compromise any financial shortage from them. He said with double fares, they can save some money to give vehicle owners. Ndow said fuel increment is usually announced, but that this never favored them when it comes to the amount of fuel their vehicles consume just to reach their destinations.
Another driver Alhagie Ceesay who also plies between Serekunda and Coastal Road, said people call them all sort of names for charging double fares. But said people will not blame Government for failure to provide accessible roads. Ceesay said sometimes they spend two hours just to run for ten kilometres. On how the double fares benefit them, Ceesay said they are able to meet their financial contract requirements, pay rents and save some money, thanks to the double fares they charge.
Musa Colley, a ‘Gele Gele’ driver who plies between West Field and Brikama, distances himself from charging double fares. He said he had never done it and will never do; that whenever traffic becomes congested in the morning and evening, he avoids the highway by diverting to the Coastal Highway and Brusibi round about. Commenting on financial improvement before and now, Colley said his earnings still remain the same; that he would not make an unclean service.
“I have been driving for fifteen years. It is from this service that I upkeep my family. I would want to continue to upkeep my family with lawfully gained money because the government has already set out the tariff for each distance,” he said; that his financial earnings have remained the same even though he does not charge double fares for a trip.
Ebrima Camara, an employee of GPA lamented on the challenges travelers face when going to or returning from their work. He said he usually join taxis and pay fifty dalasi just to reach his workplace on time; that not everyone can afford to pay one hundred dalasi (D100) to and from work every day and urge drivers to stick to the set tariff.
Kebba Jallow, a commuter who travels to Lamin complained of challenges that drivers pose to them both in the morning and evening; that during these rush hours, most drivers will not pick passengers to Lamin, but Farato and Brikama only.
“I appeal to Government to put a stop to the double fares. It is as if no Government exists in the country to control fares,” he said.
Aminata Faal, a vendor at Serekunda market recounted some of the challenges they face particularly during the evenings. She said she sometimes reaches home at nine o’clock in the evenings and always finds her kids asleep. Faal said she cannot afford to maintain the double fares that drivers ask from passengers; that this is why she arrives late.
The Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure was visited by this reporter in order for them to shed light on some of the challenge’s commuters face during rush hours, due to the poor road network and other traffic related matters.