Remarks Delivered by The Hon. Ian Gooding-Edghill, Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources

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Hon. Ian Gooding-Edghill

Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources

At The Handover of Electric Buses Ceremony

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, Wildey, St. Michael


Good Morning,

It is a pleasure for me to address you this morning at this handing over ceremony of the fleet of thirty-three (33) electric buses. I will commence this address by thanking those persons and entities that assisted in ensuring that these buses arrived on the island and were cleared through the port without any challenges. These buses arrived on July 8, 2020 during the global pandemic of COVID-19. The buses were removed from the Barbados Port Inc. on July 10, 2020 and were inspected, weighed and licensed in the next few days. Thanks to all for a job well done.

With the enunciation of the Barbados National Energy Policy, and Government’s commitment to achieving sustainable energy by 2030, it was evident that the government of Barbados was committed to creating a clean environment which will enhance the health of its citizens through the utilisation of renewable energy, as the alternative to fossil fuels.

Ladies and gentlemen, as a part of that commitment, the Cabinet of Barbados mandated the purchase of a number of electric buses to augment the aging rolling fleet of the Transport Board. This decision was grounded in the fact that it had become apparent that even with an aggressive repair and maintenance programme, the challenge of not having purchase any new buses since 2006 had drastically reduced the available rolling fleet. This occurrence created an untenable situation, whereby the traveling public and in particularly, pensioners and school children found it difficult to travel to their respective destinations. The unattainable situation also had far-reaching consequences for productivity in the economy and by extension the economic landscape of the island.

Ladies and gentlemen, to redress this situation the Government of Barbados authorised the Transport Board to procure a fleet of electric buses, by agreeing to vest a total figure of forty-five million dollars ($45,000,000) for the purchase of the buses and to ensure that all necessary infrastructure was put in place, including charging stations, spare parts, necessary upgrades to the existing facilities and to train personnel among other areas of retrofit.

The Transport Board carried out the Cabinet’s directive by effectively undertaken the tendering process immediately. Firstly, the specifications for the buses were determined by an experienced group of individuals, followed by the Request for Proposals appearing in the local media during the week of 19th August 2019.

I must hasten to explain that it was felt that a venture of this magnitude should be prefaced by extensive research, investigation and detailed analysis before the awarding of the contract and that the related tender process ought to be transparent. Consequently, the Board of Directors recused itself from the process as a part of its corporate governance process, ensuring that the highest ethical and corporate governance standards were exercised.

As a part of the evaluation process the College of Negotiators was conceptualised and appointed.  This team assessed the proposals and made recommendations to the Transport Board of Directors. Subsequently, the Board of Directors met and reviewed the recommendations of the College of Negotiators and selected BYD Panama (Build Your Dreams) as the successful tenderer.

I wish to assure you that the tender process was extensive and fair, notwithstanding that the College of Negotiators had undertaken the analysis of the information presented by those who tendered. Let me reiterate that the Board of Directors ensured that due diligence was carried out with a team of officials visiting at least two of public transport operations that supply electric buses, at its own cost, to see the buses in operations at the bus companies.

Let me emphasise, the Government of Barbados, represented by the Transport Board ensured that the buses manufactured by BYD were observed in operation.  Visits were undertaken during the month of July 2019 to observe the buses performing effectively before the contract was signed.

Before the awarding of the contract to BYD, consideration was given to the fact that electric buses would introduce a new technology to this region and specifically into Barbados, thus requiring modern technical working capabilities and capacities and new repair techniques.  To treat to this issue, the Board of Directors, ensured that where possible, systems were put in place to confirm that the fleet would be well maintained through the insertion in the contract the stipulation that a trained local service provider must be available for at least the first twenty-four (24) months of the bus operation to address any maintenance challenges, including scheduled servicing.

It would be remised of me not to tell you about BYD. BYD which is an acronym for Build Your Own Dreams is a high-tech company devoted to technological innovations was founded in February 1995.  The company has played a significant role in industries related to electronics, automobiles, new energy and rail transit. From energy generation and storage to its applications, BYD showed that it is dedicated to providing zero-emission energy solutions commencing in the UK, USA, Latin America and now the Caribbean. As a part of the push for electrification in the Chilean public transport system, on Saturday, 27 June, 2020 one hundred and fifty (150) new BYD electric buses were incorporated into the public transport system. With a total of four hundred and fifty- five (455) buses in operation in Chile, BYD is firmly a leader in that country’s electric bus market, with a 65% share. Additionally, one hundred and twenty (120) units are also in Columbia as a part of a tender for three hundred and seventy-nine (379) buses which was awarded earlier this year.

Even further afield in the USA, it has been reported that electric buses from BYD are already significantly contributing to improving air quality in the U.S. and already covers more than 13 million miles (21 million km) in the U.S.

Ladies and gentlemen, the buses which are made in Lancaster, California, are operated by the local transit agency – the Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) – which just crossed the 3-million-mile mark of zero-emission operations using BYD buses. Overall, the company sold buses to more than fifty (50) customers across the country and the use of electric zero-emission buses versus fossil-fuelled buses reportedly translated into:

  1. Saving over 16,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions or the equivalent mileage of more than 520 trips around the globe; and
  2. the equivalent of removing 13,000 cars from the road eliminated the need for transit agencies and operators to consume 3.3 million gallons of diesel fuel resulting in millions of dollars in savings to U.S. taxpayers, based on transit agency estimates.

AVTA, which is one of the major BYD customers in the U.S., said that over a couple of years its electric vehicle fleet “saved 769,231 gallons of diesel fuel, which equates to a savings of more than $1 million in fuel costs after paying for electricity”.

Here in Barbados, we have purchased thirty-three (33) of BYD’s buses.  Certainly, we anticipate that we will also see significant savings in fuel costs and maintenance costs coupled with a reduction in carbon emissions as the electric buses do not carry as many moving parts and are fumes free. It should be noted that based on information provided by the Transport Board, had the Government purchased thirty-three (33) diesel buses instead of the electric buses, the fuel cost to operate the diesel units would be  $325, 202, per month.

The funding for this project was handled as a separate capital project and funds were paid directly to BYD in accordance with the contract.  All additional funds were disbursed for activities undertaken in Barbados, as payment became due. This approach ensured that in the event of an audit this project would pass every level of scrutiny into the use of public funds.

The timeline for getting these buses into operation remains a testimony to the possible benefits of joint projects between the private and public sector as the committee that oversaw the Electrical Infrastructure Project was a combined private and public venture.

The deployment of the thirty-three (33) electric buses, the fifty-nine (59) units operating in the Transport Augmentation Program along with the current diesel flee will significantly increase bus availability and ease the difficulties that commuters currently face on a daily basis.

I will take this opportunity to acknowledge the contribution made by the Barbados Light and Power and its principals at Emera Ltd who offered technical expertise to the members in the form of a dedicated employee to the committee.  The other members of the committee included some of the heads of the GEED, MTW workshop, MTW Planning department, Licensing Authority and of course the Transport Board.  A team was in place to implement this project and it was agreed that without prejudice to the tender process, the Transport Board would continue negotiations with Emera Ltd or Barbados Light & Power Ltd, to secure the best price for the charging stations for electric buses.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a special thank you to Mrs. Lynda Holder, who was the project leader and successfully met every objective set by the Transport Board of Directors.

Ladies and gentlemen, the training commenced on 15 July 2020 and the deployment of the units will occur from today.  I must inform you that the bus purchase of these buses is not only a policy initiative geared towards alleviating the current public transportation challenges that confront the Board. It also prepares the country for the future as such the training included not just the drivers but was extensive and expansive and included drivers, technicians, fire service personnel, ambulance service personnel and existing partners of the Transport Board such as UCAL and the Barbados Defence Force personnel.

This Government is planning for the future of the island and the next generation and therefore a partnership was formed between the Ministry and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology for knowledge sharing and some of the instructors from that institutions were also trained on the technical aspects of the buses thereby opening another avenue for on the job training and giving a new possibility for education and exposure to our younger generation.

I must inform that in undertaking this project we have also taken cognisance of the needs of the disabled community. In this regard, the Ministry of Transport, Works and Water Resource engaged the Council for the Disabled in order to alleviate the challenges that that community will encounter due to the quieter nature of the buses and what that will mean to that category of commuter. We heard what was said and sought to incorporate those suggestions into the operation of the buses.

In closing, I want to beseech the traveling public to treat these units as though they are your own. Enjoy the ride and protect and care them. Once again I wish to thank all of the parties who played an integral in making this project a success.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you.