The service will be an upgraded version of the current system, not a franchise model, prominent transport expert Prof Shamsul Hoque says
The Bus Routes Rationalization Committee (BRRC) has decided to finally begin operation of the new bus system in Dhaka from December 1, having taken the initiative around six years ago.
According to the plan, the first route out of 42 under the new model service will run from Kanchpur to Ghatarchar. Other routes across the capital will be opened gradually.
“The buses under the franchise system will not be air-conditioned but they will be new buses,” Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh said on Tuesday.
“The bus models will not be older than two years as we want to ensure standardized service,” he added.
The DSCC mayor made the remarks at a press briefing following the 18th meeting of the BRRC held at Nagar Bhaban.
Former Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) mayor Annisul Huq came up with a bus franchise system with the aim of bringing discipline to the public transport sector in 2015.
Prominent transport expert Prof Shamsul Hoque, however, independently monitored the activities of BRRC and concluded that the new service will be an upgraded version of the current system, not a real franchise model as planned by Annisul Huq.
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“The Bus route franchising has so far been a good initiative to ensure a better bus service. It should be operated through forming a company, as all developed countries do this to ensure discipline. Currently, bus operators hardly follow the rules,” said Prof Shamsul Hoque, former director of the Accident Research Institute at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet)
“However, the BRRC has revised the original strategy as now bus owners remain as operators,” he added.
Replying to a query, DSCC Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh said: “The new bus service model will be operated through a joint venture agreement with the bus owners, instead of by forming a company.”
As per the proposal of an expert committee, the BRRC has finalized 22 companies and 42 routes in 9 clusters in Dhaka under the new system.
According to the plan, buses will be colour coded based on which routes they operate on. Green buses will operate on the Kanchpur to Ghatarchar route.
To ensure discipline, the BRRC had decided to prepare an operating guideline or manual, driver and helper appointment policies, and a dress code.
However, the operation guidelines are yet to be finalized by the BRRC as some bus owners have stubbornly refused to stop operating independently.
Sources at the BRRC said many bus owners were yet to agree on the new system as it would make it more difficult to skirt regulations. There are at least 1,600 unfit buses currently operating in Dhaka.
“All the drivers must be licenced, and support staff have to put on uniforms when operating a bus under the new model,” said DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam.
Meanwhile, the bus owners have demanded bank loans of Tk3 lakh with 4.5% interest for the renovation of buses. But the loan was not ready for the bus owners yet.
“We have managed the issue differently, therefore a loan is necessary to begin the operation,” said DSCC Mayor Taposh.
The construction of sheds and bays at selected bus stops also needs to be completed.
“We have selected 40 bays and sheds which will be completed before operation,” said Mayor Atiqul Islam.
“However, the initiative is facing challenges due to scarcity of space,” he added.
However, he confidently said the service would begin by the announced time.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader and Local Government, Rural Development, and Cooperatives (LGRD) Minister Tazul Islam are set to inaugurate the service.
Earlier, the BRRC missed two deadlines to launch the new mode of transportation on April 1 and September 7 this year.
Bus fare not fixed yet
The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) proposed increasing bus fares for the franchise service by Tk0.50 to a rate of Tk2.20 per kilometre in a meeting held in February.
The BRRC hinted that the increased fares would only apply to buses that were brought under the new system, and hence would not be implemented simultaneously across the city.
However, the Road Transport and Bridges Ministry has not approved the proposed bus fares.
“The government will finalize the fare for the franchised route. But it is still pending,” said Khandakar Rakibur Rahman, executive director of the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority and member secretary of BRRC.
However, bus owners want to increase the fare more as they would operate new buses on the new routes.
“The committee decided to operate new buses, so the fare should be increased, '' said Dhaka Road Transport Owners Association's General Secretary Khandaker Enayet Ullah.
Meanwhile, Mozammel Haque, secretary general of the Bangladesh Passengers’ Welfare Association, said it was not logical to increase fares until the service was established and found to be comfortable.