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Business is picking up for bus operators

The Fa’afili Transport service is back in business but the public buses have returned without their old drivers.

Vaitele-Fou businessman and Fa’afili Transport owner, Lesaisaea Tasesa Loli, told Samoa Observer that he had to recruit new drivers for his company’s three buses after the old drivers left during the state of emergency (S.O.E.) lockdown.

"It's only been two weeks since my buses have been back on the road. The drivers left to find other jobs,” he said in a phone interview.

“After a while, I found out that they had found jobs at other places so that they could earn an income to take care of their families. All of my bus drivers are new because the ones before them have now chosen to stay at their current jobs.”

Lesaisaea said business is starting to pick-up after the declaration of the coronavirus (COVID-19)-related SOE and its subsequent orders kept public transport off the road.

Most Fa’afili Transport-owned buses work serve the Vaitele Road and are part of 14 buses with other buses from the other transport companies working on that route. 

When asked how much one of his Vaitele-Fou buses makes in a day, he said:  It depends on the number of buses that are on the road, if all 14 buses of the Vaitele area are operating, then I would probably get T$120 or DT$130. But if less than 10 buses are on the Vaitele Road then the average amount I would get would be about $200.”

He added that one of his Vaitele-fou buses can make about T$180 a day.

A bus driver for Good Fortune Transport, Danny Sang Yum, expressed similar sentiments in an interview with Samoa Observer.

He said the SOE lockdown impacted negatively on the business, resulting in minimal revenue being generated during that period.

Navigating the Government’s social distancing policy for public transport was also tricky, as Mr Sang Yum said even if they had to comply and only allow 20 passengers onboard, it was not feasible sitting 20 passengers apart in a public bus.

"When the buses were allowed back, only 20 passengers were allowed with them sitting two meters apart. If you think about it, there wouldn't be 20 passengers if it was two meters apart," he said.

And while the Government has announced the waiver of registration fees as part of its COVID-19 support as well as cut diesel prices, Mr Sang Yum said they only generate more revenue when they have more passengers. 

"Even though the price has dropped, it's still not the same amount of passengers as before the COVID-19 crisis started," he said. “Yesterday I only earned $185. It's been a bit slow because schools aren't fully back yet.”

According to Mr Sang Yum, prior to the onset of the global pandemic, his public bus that served Saleapaga would get around $350 a day.

The amount of money currently generated by the bus service wouldn't cover the cost of vehicle parts, which he said are quite expensive.

"Not all roads are the same. I know the buses here near the town area are doing good but for us, on the far side of Upolu we have one trip a day," he said.

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