The usefulness of double-decker buses in the fleet of the state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) in public transport in Dhaka city is recognised by all. The service is popular among the commuters.
The capacity of a double-decker bus to carry the passengers is double than a single-decker regular bus. At the same time, it requires the same road space as a regular bus.
Double-decker bus is iconic bus of London and is famed as 'London Bus' since the '30s. British Leyland Motors, the manufacturers of the double-decker bus, stopped the production in the late '70s. At that time, the production line was transferred to India's Ashok Leyland, focusing on South Asia.
Good news is the BRTC has already signed an agreement with Ashok Leyland Limited to purchase about 300 double-decker buses worth Tk 2.39 billion under the second Indian Line of Credit (LoC). Ashok Leyland will start to supply the buses from December and complete the job by the end of February next through the Mongla Port. Five years back, the BRTC purchased 290 double-decker buses from the Indian manufacturers under the first Indian LoC.
Due to geographical proximity, procuring the double-decker buses from India appears cost-effective. Pricing is, however, a critical thing. It needs an examination in details to identify whether there is any overpricing or not. Moreover, it is a direct purchase under the conditions set for availing loans from India.
The bad news is there is no sign of improvement in the service of the BRTC. A good number of buses were virtually dumped in the BRTC depots for years. The maintenance of the buses is poor in most of the cases. Two months ago, 15 buses were gutted in a depot in Dhaka. Most of the buses were double-decker.
The main problem for BRTC plying its buses on the roads is resistance from gangs formed by quarters who are apparently opposed to public transport. Buses are vandalised on occasions. Even BRTC officials, bus drivers and helpers are sometimes harassed. It is an open secret but the government has yet to take any action in this regard. BRTC authority is forced to bow down to the illegal pressure of the gangs and withdraw or curtail its services in many routes.
The BRTC is apparently unable to operate its public transport smoothly. To reduce the operating loss, it sometime leases out buses to different offices and universities.
So, without fixing the nagging operational problems, the BRTC will not be able to give optimal service to the commuters. Procurement of the 300 double-decker buses is unlikely to provide much relief for the commuters.
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