Efficient bus services in city still a far cry

Dhaka,  Mon,  05 December 2016
Published : 25 Nov 2016, 00:14:12

Efficient bus services in city still a far cry

‘Single-route single-co’ system in limbo
Munima Sultana


The capital city is unlikely to get a disciplined and efficient public transport service soon with buses on 'single-route single-company' basis, as the authorities concerned are yet to take adequate measures in this regard.

Official sources said a favourable environment has been created to form companies with positive mindset of bus owners. But, it is alleged that the authorities are now almost inactive.

Lack of necessary guidance for forming the companies, selecting the routes rationally, and incapacity of the authorities to negotiate with the politically-influenced private bus operators etc are mainly blamed for delay in the process, they added.

Although Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has already introduced one such bus service in Gulshan area, many question its rights to work in the transport sector.

The bus service, named as Chaka, was launched without any route permit and with unusually high fares in violation of the government's transport fare chart.

According to law, Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) is responsible for transport-related policy planning, including route selection and transformation of any system.

But Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), which has the responsibility of issuing route permits, has made the city chaotic by allowing plying of more than 6,000 buses under at least 100 companies in each of over 250 routes.

The DNCC mayor has meanwhile taken efforts to launch five companies for running buses on five different routes. Under his plan, announced in March, age-old and damaged buses will be replaced with 3,000 new ones under five companies.

Earlier, DTCA officials sat several times with bus owners and workers since it first introduced bus route franchise (BRF) service in 2010. The bus service, launched between Uttara and Azimpur, stopped within a year due to plying of a large number of mini-buses on the route.

Afterwards, DTCA could not make any significant headway due to lack of technical expertise in forming the companies as well as preparing the modalities of sharing and operating bus companies.

Officials said a study was done in 2013 on bus route rationalisation to reduce the number of bus routes in phases.

But after the study, Regional Transport Committee (RTC), formed under BRTA in 1999 with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner as its head to permit routes, allowed more than one hundred new routes instead of reducing routes.

The DTCA study suggested bringing down the number of city bus routes to 91 from the then 152 by 2016 and 72 by 2020 to accommodate the bus services with new mass transit systems, including metro-rail.

Bus route rationalisation by forming companies was a recommendation of the strategic transport plan (STP), including its revision for making the existing bus services efficient with the upcoming mass transit systems.

The bus owners said they are happy with the government's initiatives to bring all the bus companies under a few companies, but they want fairness in sharing profit. They also demand bank loan at single-digit interest rate to buy new buses.

Experts said political influence in transport sector has made the overall situation complicated. But they welcomed the DNCC mayor's effort in this regard, as it will help overcome non-cooperation of the bus operators.

Meanwhile, a section of bus owners alleged formation of syndication in the process of selecting companies and buses. They also said interest of commuters has been ignored in the negotiation, initiated by the mayor.

Khandakar Rafiqul Hossain Kajal, president of Association of Bus Companies (ABC), demanded reform of bus services under a legal framework from the context of sustainability and for ensuring passenger-friendly services.

Mr Kajol, also the first operator of BRF under DTCA, urged the authorities to abide by the revised STP for making this important sector efficient for all.

Dr Mohammad Shamsul Hoque, a Professor of Civil Engineering Department of BUET, said in the country's context, bus consolidation is now more achievable than BRF. It will enable the authorities to involve the existing operators in the system rather than finding new players.

"It will be expensive and time consuming to introduce BRF with modern buses and through competitive bidding. So, bus consolidation can accommodate the existing bus operators in the company-based bus services for the time being and gradually help transform those to BRF."

When contacted, the DNCC mayor refrained from giving any comment in connection with his plan and efforts to form companies, as he is out of the office for a couple of days.

    smunima@yahoo.com
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