New buses for BRTC  

Published: March 11, 2019 22:11:40 | Updated: March 13, 2019 22:16:29

The addition of 1,100 new buses and trucks to the BRTC (Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation) fleet could have been an occasion of great rejoicing but for the past experiences with similar acquisition. Of the 1,100 vehicles, 600 are buses -- air-conditioned (AC), non-AC and double-decker and the rest 500 are trucks. All the buses are manufactured by Indian companies like Ashok Leyland and Tata and the country is going to receive those under India's second line of credit (LoC) facility. Of these new additions, 300 double-decker buses and 100 single-decker buses will be pressed into city service and another 100 such buses into inter-city service. Another 100 non-AC buses are also likely to ply on city roads. On paper the arrangement looks fine because the state-owned body will be running its AC services within a city. It is yet to be known, though, if the buses are meant for only the capital or for other cities as well.

Since the transportation conundrum is ailing the capital city and to go by earlier statements of ministers concerned, the main objective of pressing the newly acquired BRTC buses into service is to ease the pressure off the transport sector in Dhaka. The introduction of 100 AC bus is aimed at relieving commuters of their sufferings. This is what the authorities announced earlier. Then what about the trucks to be added to its fleet of freight vehicles? The BRTC already has 85 trucks and those are reportedly used for carrying state goods. Will the new addition then be used for commercial purposes as well? So many trucks will not be required for carrying state goods, nor can those be left idle and rust away in depots.

One thing does not go in favour of the BRTC. It is the corporation's track record. It has made similar acquisitions in the past but in such cases, the vehicles were deliberately grounded on this or that pretext. The most notorious example it set is with the double-decker Volvo buses. There is hardly any bus better than this in the whole world. Its life span was at least 20 years but corruption and mismanagement were so ingrained in the sector that these vehicles were rendered useless after eight years of service. Even those eight years were not smooth going for the vehicles because of the conspiracy resorted to by intriguing elements within or outside of the organisation.

Had the BRTC been sincere and serious about improving the transportation service in the capital city, it would not neglect some of the basic tasks so essential for such a body. It cannot fix a fare rate nor can it decide if there should be sitting service or not even though the committee set up for the purpose submitted its report about a year or so ago. All the BRTC is most capable of is to ground vehicles and then allow those rust away while the parts are stolen. At least there should be no recurrence of this and the vehicles should be allowed to complete their life span. So far as the trucks are concerned, they can be used for carrying farmers' perishable produces under cooperative arrangement in order to push out middlemen and ensure fair price for those.      

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