ST JOHN’S, Antigua – After years of setbacks and much controversy, Transport Board management says that construction of the new Antigua & Barbuda Transport Board headquarters is just months away from completion.
OBSERVER Media was granted an exclusive tour of the state-of-the-art facility in Potters and candid interviews with the facility’s top brass.
The one-million-square-foot compound encompasses five buildings including administrative, repairs and maintenance, motor pool, inspections and staff canteen areas.
The complex is being touted as the largest on island, with the repairs and maintenance building being the largest governmental building at 450,000 square feet.
The crown jewel of the new facility, the repair and maintenance building, is said to be currently the most innovative and advanced facility of its kind in the Caribbean, according to David Bartholomew, the consultant in fleet management who facilitated the design of the building.
“I honestly don’t think that what we are putting here you are going to see in any other smaller Caribbean country,” Bartholomew noted.
Part of the Board’s implementation plan is to offer training and retraining of mechanics in automotive repair maintenance. The training will be offered to mechanics both on island and throughout the Caribbean. The mechanics will learn high-tech skills in the maintenance of newer, computer-based vehicles.
“This is really something that I think we can offer to the other neighbouring islands; training for their people at this facility,” he said.
Sections of the headquarters, including the repairs and maintenance and motor pool divisions will operate around the clock, daily, in order to facilitate daily governmental vehicle inspections and maintenance and mechanics classes that will take place during the evening.
The licensing department will house two new automated inspections machines that they anticipate will streamline and allow for a more accurate vehicle inspections process.
“It takes away any kind of subjective decisions, so I can’t favour somebody and let it ride. If the machine says it ain’t good, it’s not good,” Bartholomew continued.
The project, reportedly 85 per cent complete, began construction in 2005 with an 18-month timeline and $16 million budget.
Seven years later, the budget has ballooned to $30 million. However Harry Josiah, general manager, says that the facility will be well worth the wait.
“Yes, some people complain that you (Transport Board) started to build this place in 2005. It is true. But when we are finished we are going to be delivering a world-class facility that is going to make a difference in terms of how Antiguans and Barbudans and visitors to this country view government purchasing, upkeep and maintenance of vehicles,” Josiah explained.
The completion date is slated for late August, when the staff is scheduled to begin work at the facility. The grand opening is tentatively scheduled for November 1, Independence Day.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)