After several hiccups, the much-hyped franchised bus service was finally launched in the last week of the last year on a trial basis. Branded as Dhaka Nagar Paribahon there are 30 red buses of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) and 20 green buses of Trans Silva. These buses are now plying between Ghatarchar and Kanchpur. The service has already received a good response from the commuters as the fare is rational and e-tickets system is in operation. Buses are departing on time and do not halt without any dedicated stoppage. The drivers are also not in a hurry to overtake other buses to fill their daily targets. So, commuters are gradually feeling a taste of disciplined and decent public transport.
Now, there are two critical questions: how long the service will sustain? Whether the service will be expanded sustainably to make the whole public bus service in Dhaka hassle-free? Being on a trial run, it will take some more days to get comprehensive feedbacks from commuters, operators and other stakeholders. It is also important to examine the feedbacks carefully. Moreover, the authorities need to monitor the operations.
Some challenges have already been identified. Buses of other companies operating on the same route are creating some obstacles. While the dedicated colour buses are not drooping and picking up passengers anywhere without the designated stoppages, other buses are doing so. Thus, commuters used to ignore stoppages and board on buses at the middle of the roads prefer other buses. In some stoppages, there is no counter or booth of Dhaka Nagar Paribahon and many passengers do not know the timetable.
Though the authorities have claimed that 30 out of the total 40 passenger sheds have been completed, these are yet to be visible fully. Moreover, BRTC's double-decker buses are plying on the route without any helper, posing some risks. Again, other buses and their owners will not cooperate as they are losing some revenues.
Finally, those who are extracting undue tolls from buses will do whatever is needed to make the initiative a failure. If the trial run becomes a failure one like circular bus services in Dhaka, it will be very difficult to continue the operation of the franchised bus operation.
The authorities have already asserted that other buses on the route would be restricted from January 31 which is not a viable step. Previous experiences show that the deadline may be shifted and it needs more time to bring the other buses under one umbrella. So, compensation and other adjustments of costs are also there. What is important is to ensure the participation of the private bus operators in this process to make the route rationalisation a success. Private operators have more than 95 per cent of the share in the public bus service in Dhaka. Without getting cooperation from them, no step will be successful in the long run. They have also some valid demands and the authorities need to address those properly.