The corporation also hoping to eventually introduce a smart card system

Transport: In an effort to improve public transportation in the capital city, Bhutan Post will introduce an electronic ticket system from tomorrow.

Under the new system, tickets will not be issued inside the bus by the conductor, but have to be purchased from an authorised e-ticket outlet in Thimphu. The e-tickets will be available at shops that sell electronic mobile vouchers, of which there are 75 in Thimphu.

The tickets will be available in dominations that are multiples of five, between Nu 5 and Nu 30.

There will also be bulk tickets available for Nu 50 and Nu 150 that can be used for multiple journeys.

The e-tickets will have no expiry date and can be used on any route that the ticket would pay for.

Commuters will only be allowed to board a bus if they are in possession of an e-ticket, that will be punched or marked on entry. The company has warned that if the rule is violated by either the commuter or conductor, a fine would be imposed.

Bhutan Post’s public relations officer, Dorji Wangchuk, said that the e-ticket is being introduced to professionalise the city bus service. “Currently, we are relying on the old fashion ticketing system which is not really effective for improving the operations of city bus service,” he said.

Currently, commuters purchase tickets from a conductor on board the bus.

The e-ticket is also a first step towards eventually introducing a smart card system, as practised in other countries like Thailand and Singapore.

Bhutan Post expects that the new system will improve crowd management during peak hours and ensure the maximum carrying capacity of a bus is followed. “It will benefit with less consumption of time as conductors will not handle cash or issue tickets in this new system,” Dorji Wangchuk said, adding that buses should be able to keep to schedules and run on time.

The introduction of the e-ticket system is also expected to reduce revenue leakage.

A recent study that examined the feasibility of introducing a intelligent transport system in Thimphu found that revenue leakage in urban public transport is “widespread and deeply rooted and largely uncontrolled”. A World Bank specialist also estimated that up to 30 percent of revenue was being leaked.

However, Dorji Wangchuk said that while revenue leakage is suspected, no professional assessment had been done yet. “Indeed city bus services’ mission is to provide reliable and efficient urban transport service to the public,” he said. “The new system is conducive for curbing the suspected revenue leakages thereby it will support in sustaining our mission to provide reliable and efficient service to the people.”

On when a smart card system may be introduced, Dorji Wangchuk said that it remains a future plan dependent on availability of budget. “However, it is important for us to see whether it is conducive to bring smart card system any time soon,” he said. “From my personal point of view with regard to the budget and equipment, the city bus service plays a very important role for our nation by serving the people who cannot afford a high standard living, contributes towards a clean environment and helps reduce traffic congestion,” he added. “Therefore, I feel that our government and donors will support in terms of financial matters to bring changes for improving the facilities of the urban transport service.”

Other improvements to the city bus service are in the pipeline.

Bhutan Post plans to increase the fleet of its buses so that frequencies can be improved and routes extended. The company currently has 34 buses for Thimphu city.

“As the operator and manager of the city bus services, we have submitted the proposal for additional fleet as per the need of existing demand of the public passengers. It is under process of assessment by the government at present,” Dorji Wangchuk said.

By November, a model bus stop is also expected to be completed. The bus stop will be equipped with a shelter, seating, and a notice board displaying information needed by commuters such as service timings and routes, among others. A bus bay would also be constructed to avoid having the bus stop on the road and obstructing the flow of traffic.

Gyalsten K Dorji