Buses of state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation are getting unserviceable long before expiry of their economic life for procurement of low quality vehicles and corruption in their maintenance.
Officials and road transport experts have found that brand new buses become poor and rickety within a few years of their arrival.
They allege that some dishonest BRTC employees are fattening their pockets by leasing out the buses to private operators, keeping the vehicles without schedule maintenance, operating them with poor maintenance with an ill intention to pave way for new buses under new projects and selling parts of buses.
All these have led to a decrease in the number of BRTC buses in service at present.
Road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader on January 22 at a views exchange lamented, ‘Ultra modern vehicles arrive and after some days these become rickety with broken window panes.’
He blamed the BRTC officials for wasting a huge amount of money by not maintaining the buses properly.
Since 1972-73, a total of 3,011 single-decker, double-decker, air-conditioned and CNG-run buses and minibuses were purchased by the corporation.
Between 1999-2001 and 2006-2007 fiscals BRTC purchased a total of 646 buses and minibuses.
Of these buses, 50 Volvo double-decker buses from Sweden went out of order within six to seven years after these hit the streets mainly due to poor maintenance. Their economic life was 15 years.
Currently, only one of these buses is operational and 49 are under heavy repairs since long.
Out of 30 Chinese CNG buses, only 15 are now in BRTC fleet while only one is in operation and 14 under heavy repairs.
Out of around 400 Tata – 1316/55 TC buses, currently 335 are in BRTC fleet with 132 of them in operation, 102 beyond economic repairs and 28 under heavy repairs.
Between 2009-2011 and 2012-2013 fiscals, BRTC purchased 958 buses including 275 Dongfeng (Chinese) CNG buses, 255 Daeyu (Korean) CNG, 88 Ashok Leyland (Indian) AC and 50 articulated buses.
According to the corporation, at present 173 Chinese CNG, 117 Korean CNG, 10 Indian AC and eight articulated buses are in unserviceable condition.
The corporation officials have said that the economic life of Dongfeng (Chinese) CNG buses was 10 years, for Daeyu (Korean) CNG buses it was 15 years and for Ashok Leyland (Indian) buses 12 years.
Till date, as per official data, the corporation has a total of 1,445 buses in its fleet, out of which 921 are in serviceable condition, 360 are under heavy repairs and 164 are beyond economic repairs.
The number of BRTC buses was 1,536 in 2017.
BRTC chairman Farid Ahmed Bhuiyan on Thursday told New Age that the consequences of faulty procurement were far reaching.
‘The Chinese Dongfeng buses were purchased at low cost and they have become an everyday burden for us,’ he said.
He said these buses needed two to three litres of engine oil every day but it was not possible to run them more than 30 to 40kilometres at a stretch as gear boxes got hot.
Currently these were being used only as staff buses, from which they were not getting any revenue, he continued.
Transparency International Bangladesh trustee M Hafizuddin Khan told New Age that everyone knew that BRTC was highly inefficient and highly corrupt but no action was taken so far.
‘The corporation buys buses at regular intervals and then these go out of order for lack of maintenance,’ he said.
He said that the minister knew everything serving the ministry for about 10 years.
‘What steps did he take to make these things right?’ he asked.
Public transportation expert SM Salehuddin told New Age that BRTC got almost all facilities including new buses, bus depots and maintenance workshops while no private companies had these in Bangladesh.
Salehuddin, also a former director (technical) of BRTC between 1997 and 2004 and former executive director of the then Dhaka Transport Coordination Board, the corporation should have operated buses with its own manpower by banning the lease system.
‘The people who drive BRTC buses under lease system only look for earning as much as possible without maintaining the buses,’ he observed and added that this system also created scope for corruption.
He alleged that there was a common practice in the corporation that when a bus went out of order BRTC employees took parts of that bus and set these to another one.
‘As a result, the number of out of order vehicles increases,’ he said.
Salehuddin also suggested new and skilled manpower in operation department, schedule maintenance of buses, modernisation of BRTC workshops, workshop facilities in depots and bringing more spare parts during procurement.
‘If the corporation follows these properly, the buses will run for 15 to 20 years, otherwise new buses will become rundown within three or four years,’ he noted.
Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh secretary general Mozammel Haque Chowdhury alleged that the corporation was limping for failure in leadership as some dishonest employees were controlling major depots years after years to fatten their pockets.
If they could be brought under accountability, the situation would improve, he added.
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