14ymedio, Havana, November 14, 2022 — The Sancti Spiritus National Bus Terminal began operations in 2019 after an investment of more than six million pesos. Though is it the most modern terminal of its kind on the Island, all its functions, except passenger drop-off, remain on hold.
“The last time I was here was during a power outage,” says Juan, a Havana journalist who often travels to Sancti Spiritus. He claims that he has never seen the cafe open and the lack of food services has forced him to drink water directly from restroom sinks.
His account is consistent with an article published on Monday in Escambray, an official newspaper that likens the building to a museum, “with waiting areas that are clean and empty most of the time, spotless wall surfaces, and furniture that looks as though it could be brand new.
The terminal has three waiting areas that can accommodate more than 350 people, food service facilities, a retail area, a lactation room, mail services, wifi and internet navigation zones, a taxi stand, a medical station, a reception desk and a left-luggage office. Almost none of these services has ever been used.
“You can’t get on the [passenger] waiting list here. You have to go to the old terminal, the one that was supposed to be only for local and intercity buses. Nowadays, the bus leaves the new station and then, if it has any empty seats, goes over to the old station to pick up passengers. Then it hits the road and heads towards Havana. It’s ridiculous,” says Juan.
According to Escambray, a passenger who does not have a reserved seat can get on a waiting list to buy a bus ticket but, since the outset of the covid pandemic, has had do so at the old provincial terminal even though the new terminal reopened in late 2021.
“They told me this was because of covid,” one passenger tells Escambray, “but they’ve already lifted most restrictions in the rest of the country. Why then does this terminal only serve travelers with reservations, which these days are only about half what they were in 2019?”
Jose Lorenzo Garcia, provincial director of Sancti Spiritus Transport, insists the operating procedures mimic those of bus stations in Havana other parts of the country. “Obviously, the new terminal now has a more limited use but, once the nation’s fuel situation stabilizes, we’ll be able to gradually add more trips. We’ll be able to accommodate the more than one hundred buses that were, on average, stopping here every day,” he adds.
Escambray reports that most people entering the terminal already have reservations so they go directly to their buses without using the building’s auxiliary services. Meanwhile, the old station buzzes with activity despite its unsanitary conditions, lack of seating or food options, poor lighting and poor ventilation. Worse still, buses almost never stop there. Drivers arriving from the east drop off passengers at the new terminal without going to the old terminal to pick up other travelers, even when their vehicles have empty seats, leaving outbound passengers waiting in vain.
“I’ve spent three days waiting for a bus heading east but, so far, none have shown up. I’m traveling with an eight-year-old and the worst thing is there’s almost nothing here to eat. And what they do sell is low quality and expensive. Also, there’s no water to wash your hands in the sinks and the waiting area is almost never cleaned,” complains one would-be passenger.
Yaíma Gonzalez Perez, one of the managers for the bus company Empresa Viajero, says that she must rely on her cell phone for light when selling tickets during power outages, adding that the building also lacks adequate ventilation.
Natacha Castro Piña, another Empresa Viajero employee, believes improving the old terminal should be a priority even though it is little used. “We’re not asking for resources for ourselves as workers, though we could certainly use them.” she says. “I just wish customers without reservations could feel they were being well served and could enjoy a basic level of comfort during waits that can last more than twenty-four or forty-eight hours.”
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