Private Bus Companies Appeal for Help in Coronavirus Crisis

YERUSHALAYIM -
Heavy traffic on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv. (Flash90)

Owners of charter bus companies held a protest during rush hour on Wednesday morning over what they said was the government’s failure to help them avoid financial collapse in the coronavirus pandemic, The Times of Israel reported.

Dozens of buses from private transportation companies blocked the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, causing a huge traffic tie-up, though the buses were cleared out of the way after a short time, and the thoroughfare went back to its usual level of high congestion.

The buses carried banners addressed to the new Transportation Minister Miri Regev, saying, “Don’t turn your back on us.”

The private transporters were indirect casualties of lockdowns in tourism, industry and education, who are their main customers.

The roughly 30,000 people employed in the private transport business have so far not been able to reach an agreement with the government on how to help them.

Nissim Saroussi, chairman of the Association of Israeli Transportation Companies, told Channel 12 there were “tens of thousands of drivers are still at home hurting, despondent and worried what the future will bring for them because they can’t earn a living.”

“Save us, don’t turn your back on us, and don’t let people continue losing their livelihood,” he said, in a direct appeal to Regev to intervene.

A Transportation Ministry spokesperson told the Times that Regev “is doing everything she can to help,” but such decisions are in the hands of the coronavirus cabinet (of which Regev is a member).