THE city bus route rationalisation and franchise project appears to have faltered yet again as the introduction of the franchise system on a pilot basis on the Kanchpur Bridge–Ghatarchar route via Motijheel, set for April 2021, is likely to miss the deadline. Dhaka’s south mayor at a recent meeting of the coordination committee concerned has, however, said that the authorities hoped to launch the pilot project within the year. The mayor is also reported to have said that the authorities have a number of problems to deal with regarding route rationalisation, which raises serious concern and questions the ability of the government and relevant agencies to successfully launch the project because about two decades and a half have passed since efforts were initiated to rationalise bus routes. The introduction of the bus route franchise for all public transports running in the city was first planned under the Dhaka Urban Transport Project in 1997. With the latest round of delay in implementation, the whole project now seems to be in a limbo again.
The series of delays in implementation and the problems the project has run into over the years have exposed major flaws in the plans that the authorities concerned have left unattended for a long time. It was reported earlier that the city service bus owners would sign a joint-venture agreement before January 19 to form a single company which will run all the buses. But the company is yet to be formed with city authorities now saying that a draft of the agreement will be prepared soon. It is also reported that the authorities concerned will begin the process of constructing bus bays and passenger shelters along the proposed route in March. The city’s south mayor has said that it will take time to repair the buses currently operating in the city so that they could run under the project, making it appear that the authorities have plans to use old vehicles, some of which may even be unfit. The mayor has also tied the implementation of the project with Tk 100 crore in loan from the central bank. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority has, meanwhile, proposed the fare for buses running under the project at Tk 2.20 a kilometre while the fare now is Tk 1.70 for 52-seat buses and Tk 1.60 for 36-seat buses in Dhaka and Chattogram cities. The authorities seek to justify the increased fare saying that services would be better under the new project. But they seem to ignore the fact that an increase in fare would be an added burden on most people who are already affected by the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The government must, therefore, resolve all the issues that delay the city bus routes rationalisation immediately and in earnest. The government and the authorities concerned must sit with all stakeholders to come up with an effective strategy to this end.
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