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Bus route franchising initiative to be visible in 2021

  • Published at 11:31 am November 10th, 2020
bus public transport
File photo Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Intercity buses will not enter Dhaka city proper, according to the new plan

The plan to modernize Dhaka public bus transport system, which was conceived five years ago, is on its way to becoming reality. 

Currently, around 2,500 bus owners run 4,500 passenger buses on 291 routes across the capital city, with the system working in no specific order. 

The Bus Routes Rationalization Committee (BRRC) plans to implement the bus franchising system in Dhaka by next year, in order to bring discipline to public transport in the capital - an initiative first visualized by the late DNCC mayor Annisul Huq in 2015.

As per the plan, the entire city will be divided into 42 bus routes, while all city buses will operate under 22 companies to rationalize the system. The existing bus owners will be shareholders of the companies or operators.

The BRCC also decided that the intercity buses would not enter Dhaka city proper once the franchising system kicks off.

The decision was announced after the 13th meeting of BRCC, at Nagarbhaban on Tuesday.

Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), presided over the meeting.

DMP Commissioner Md Shafiqul Islam, BRTA Chairman Noor Mohammad Majumder, BRTC Chairman Md Ehsane Elahi, Rajuk Chairman Said Noor Alam, and DTCA Executive Director Khandaker Rakibur Rahman were also present. 

“We are optimistic that the bus route rationalization will be visible by next year,” Taposh said.

22 bus operators on 42 routes in Dhaka

The Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) appointed a company to conduct a feasibility study on the bus route franchising initiative last year. Recently, the company submitted an inception report on the new modality of transport in Dhaka.

The BRRC has analyzed the inception report and are now formulating an action plan to implement the new transport system.

The inception report focused on two issues: the process of bus route rationalization, and the depot and terminal operation system. 

“We have analyzed the primary report,” Mayor Taposh said. “As per the report, there will be 42 bus routes in Dhaka which will operate under 22 companies under the new system. All the city buses, which are now operated by 2,500 bus owners, will be incorporated in the system.

Also Read - Taposh shocked by lack of progress in bus franchise plan 

“Existing bus owners will be the shareholders of the 22 bus companies as per the plan. We will make a decision after consulting with the bus owners.

“We will sit again on December 8. Before that, the committee will further review the inception report in order to specify the bus routes. The committee member would get support from the stakeholders in this regard,” the DSCC mayor further said.

“Once all the cluster routes are finalized, the initiatives will get a boost,” he added.

Prof Md Hadiuzzaman, director of the Accident Research Institute of Buet, said the government was highly committed to implementing the project. 

“The routes should be fixed considering everyone. Some routes cannot be commercially profitable. In that case, bus owners will not agree to operate buses on that route, as they do not think it is a service. If required, the government should provide subsidies,” he suggested.

Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association Secretary General Khandaker Enayetullah said: “Bus route franchising is still far off in Dhaka, as the agencies do not work properly. All the previous decisions failed to meet the deadlines.

“However, we are cooperating with the government to bring discipline to the transport system,'' said Enayet, also a member of the BRRC.

Intercity buses will not enter Dhaka city

Intercity buses will not be allowed into the Dhaka city, according to the new plan.

Mayor Taposh said: “The inter-district bus will drop the passengers at the intercity bus terminal on the outskirts of Dhaka city. The passengers will then have to take a city bus or metro rail [if available] to go to their preferred destinations in the city.    

“We will execute the plan to reduce the pressure of traffic on Dhaka roads,” he added.

There are three major intercity bus terminals in Dhaka -- Mohakhali and Gabtoli under the DNCC, and Sayedabad under the DSCC.

Also Read - DSCC mayor: Decision on new bus routes by March 2020

Mayor Taposh said due to space issues at the terminals, many buses park on the roadside and cause traffic jams. “We are planning to solve the problem.”

The consultant firm on bus route rationalization suggested around 10 possible locations for intercity bus terminals at the borders of Dhaka city.

“A study is ongoing in this regard. We will get the report in March 2020. We will take our next step then,” Taposh added.   

Bus route rationalization to bring discipline in Dhaka

According to a DNCC study, 63% of people use buses as their main mode of public transport in Dhaka.

DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam said: “We are trying to set a modern operating system. Bus route rationalization is one of the best options to bring discipline in Dhaka traffic. As all buses will operate under company, drivers will refrain from driving recklessly.  

Mayor Taposh said traffic jams would reduce once the new franchising system is launched. 

The bus franchising plan was taken up 2015 to bring discipline to the public transport system and was the brainchild of the late Annisul Huq, former DNCC mayor.

Annisul Huq was the first convener of the bus route rationalization committee and Sayeed Khokon, former DSCC mayor, took charge of the committee following Annisul’s death. Taposh took charge as DSCC mayor and became the new convener of the committee by default on May 16.

On December 9, 2019, former DSCC mayor Sayeed Khokon said franchising companies would provide bus services along 20-22 routes in Dhaka city. The plan was to be finalized by March this year.

However, on October 6, DSCC Mayor Taposh said there was a shocking lack of progress in the long awaited bus franchising plan.

“Most decisions taken in previous meetings of the bus route rationalization committee are yet to be implemented, so we are planning to start from scratch. In the five years since the plan’s inception, there has been almost zero progress,” he said.

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