Bus operators want fare hike

The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority has taken a fresh move to increase the fares of buses and minibuses all over the country following a proposal from the bus operators. A meeting was held at the BRTA office in this regard on Monday where a decision was taken to conduct a survey over the fare hike proposal for buses and minibuses either running on compressed natural gas or on diesel. Experts, however, termed the proposal irrational, saying that fresh increase in bus fares would also push up the living and business costs.The bus operators never comply with the government-fixed fare charts in the city or on long-routes due to lack of monitoring by authorities concerned, they added. They said the passengers are being forced to pay higher than the government-fixed fare rates in both the city and long-route buses, which is a major example of a chaotic road transport system in the country.

On June 30 this year, the government increased gas price by 32.8 per cent on an average while the price for compressed natural gas was raised by 7.5 per cent to Tk 43 per cubic metre from existing Tk 32. Following the increase in fuel prices, the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association on July 6 sent a letter to the BRTA chairman for re-fixing the fares of CNG- and diesel-run buses.

The letter said that after the fuel-price increases the operating cost of the CNG-run transports increased by 7.5 per cent. In the capital and its adjacent areas, around 40 per cent buses and minibuses are fuelled by CNG and after 2015, the government did not revise the fare rates of these buses, it said.

The letter further said that the authorities also did not raise the fares of diesel-run long-route buses in the last four years. According to transport sector leaders, the import taxes and tariff values of tyres, tubes and other spare parts of vehicles had been increased in recent budgets and the increased taxes and tariffs had considerably upped the operating cost of vehicles.

As a result, they said, the transport owners faced ‘huge losses’ and considering all these reasons they requested the BRTA to take necessary initiatives to re-fix the fares of the CNG- and diesel-powered buses and minibuses all over the country including Dhaka. The government on September 16, 2015 for the last time revised the fares of buses and minibuses running in Dhaka and Chattogram metropolitan cities, fixing Tk 1.70 for buses and Tk 1.60 for minibuses per kilometre and the minimum fare at Tk 7 for buses and Tk 5 for minibuses.

At that time the fare of buses and minibuses running in the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority areas (Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Narsingdi, Gazipur, Manikganj and Dhaka districts) was fixed at Tk 1.60 per kilometre. On May 4, 2016 the government reduced the highest rate of fare for a kilometre for the diesel-powered buses and minibuses running on the inter-district and long routes (excluding Dhaka metropolitan city and its adjacent areas and Chattogram metropolitan city) from Tk 1.45 to Tk 1.42. Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners Association chairman Ramesh Chandra Ghosh, who was present at the Monday meeting, told New Age Tuesday that at first the bus fare re-fixation committee would evaluate the increased costs of about 30 items including spare parts, vehicles, bank instalments and fuels.

“We did not give any proposal as to how much the fares should be increased as more discussion is needed on the matter,” he said. Though the price of diesel has been stable for the last four years they have proposed increase in bus fares due to increased prices of spare parts and other things, he added. 

“The demand for increase in bus fares is not rational at all as it will eventually hike the cost of living and business,” said Consumers Association of Bangladesh vice-president SM Nazer Hossain.

He alleged that the operators always collected two to three times the (genuine) fare defying the fare chart fixed by the government and if the fares of diesel-run buses were increased then the fares of the trucks carrying goods would also increase.  “Then it would affect the entire transport sector and [all the] industries,” he said, adding considering greater interest of people there is no need to increase transport fares right now.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology professor Md Shamsul Hoque said that the operating costs of transports had increased since 2015 due to increase in traffic gridlock and extortion in the transport sector.

“The government should reduce the operating costs of transports by easing congestion and checking extortion,” he offered.m The authorities also failed to make the transport operators comply the government-fixed fare charts because of the originally defective plan of the authorities, the professor said.

“A major overhaul is necessary in the BRTA to manage the problems,” he added. BRTA director (engineering) Md Lokman Hossain Mollah told New Age Tuesday that a decision was made in the Monday meeting to conduct a survey on prices of different items required by buses to find the rationale of the proposal from the bus operators.