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10 days ago

Making the airport shuttle bus service effective

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It was long overdue. The service should have been introduced much earlier. Lack of long-term vision was the main obstacle to go ahead. Though many people suggested taking the initiative, the authorities were indifferent. Finally, the government has taken a symbolic step, hoping it will be fully functional soon. In the last week, Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) formally launched a shuttle bus service at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. Initially, two buses are now operating. The buses will start from Airport Terminal-2 and travel through the airport roundabout, Jasimuddin Road at Uttara, Airport Railway Station, and Airport Terminal-3, then return to Airport Terminal-2 via the roundabout. The BRTC plans to increase the number of buses later.

The shuttle buses are expected to facilitate the travel and luggage transportation of expatriates, domestic and foreign tourists and general passengers. Thus, the service is targeted to facilitate the incoming passengers who usually face many difficulties once landed in Dhaka from abroad. After completing immigration and customs formalities, chaos is almost everywhere when they come out of the airport. Inadequate space outside the arrival terminals makes it troublesome for cars and buses to collect passengers smoothly. Again, rental transport is expensive for many and those often exploits passengers. Some incoming passengers are forced to leave the airport on foot with baggage on their heads. They later rent CNG-driven auto rickshaws. Some even walk longer to get into public buses with a lot of hassle. For them, a well-planned shuttle bus service can provide a big relief.

The concept of a shuttle bus service is not unique, and it is a popular and affordable option in many countries. The service is designed to be hassle-free, ensuring timely transfer of departing passengers to international airports and smooth transfer of incoming passengers to their destinations. By reducing congestion near the airport, the shuttle bus service offers a convenient and cost-effective alternative to private cars or microbuses, providing a sense of relief to the passengers.

The move taken by BRTC is thus a welcome one. The air-conditioned shuttle buses have ample luggage transport facilities, security systems, free Wi-Fi, and special boarding and alighting arrangements for the elderly and people with special needs. This means that the BTRC is out to provide a good experience for its passengers. The ticket per person is Tk 20, and along with luggage, it is Tk50. It is also good to know that these two special shuttle buses were initially prepared with the BRTC's technical expertise at the integrated central repair factory in Gazipur.

Several challenges are, however, there to make the service effective in the long-run.  Operating only two buses initially means it is a trial run and the number of buses must be increased soon. Dedicated stops must be clearly marked so passengers can find where to wait for the bus. Access to the incoming zones, located on the ground floor of both terminals, is narrow and mostly congested. So, it may become a barrier to the service. Again, private car and microbus operators in the airport area may try to block the shuttle bus service for fear of losing their business. The airport authorities need to curb any such move. 

Over the years, commuters in Dhaka have witnessed some setbacks in a series of positive steps regarding public transport revamping. For instance, the BRTC circular bus service on the Dhanmondi-Azimpur route collapsed within a few months of operation. It is not desirable that the airport shuttle service also suffers the same fate. Instead, an extended airport shuttle service is necessary to reduce the hassle of both departing and incoming passengers.

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