Transport: With vehicle imports showing no signs of slowing down, the government is now focusing on improving public transport system in the country.

In an effort to address the increasing number of vehicles, especially in the capital, the City Bus Service (CBS) in Thimphu received 18 new city buses yesterday, increasing its city fleet to 48.

Imported at a cost of Nu 67 million, the Eicher buses look similar to the previous Chinese-made city buses. However, the buses have additional facilities such as wheelchair ramps for differently-abled passengers, safety bars, stop bells and are also fitted with three CCTV cameras each to monitor passengers.

With higher clearance, the new city buses have a carrying capacity of 50 passengers (29 seats).

Transport director Sonam Dendup said that currently the office is revamping the existing city bus routes to get a clearer picture of frequency and timing of the bus services.

With assistance from the Republic of Korea, CBS will be installing global positioning system (GPS) in the buses to help study the movement, timing and regularity of the bus service.

There are currently 13 major city bus routes today. Once the revamping work is completed, CBS is expecting around 15 major routes in Thimphu.

During peak hours – 7am to 9:30am and 4pm to 6:30pm – buses from Dechencholing to Babesa via Lungtenphu and the expressway ply after every 15-minute interval and, in places like Motithang, Pamtsho and Jungshina, after every 30 minutes.

Sonam Dendup said that with the new 18 buses in place they are expecting to bring down the time interval to 10 minutes during the peak hours.

“We are optimistic that the transport demand in the thromde is met through this initiative. This will not only help in the decongestion of traffic but also help reduce the emission and promote safety for passengers,” said Sonam Dendup.

He added that CBS will strictly monitor the designated seat rule in the buses once it hits the roads after two weeks. Elderly and disabled people along with pregnant mothers and monks have a designated seat.

Sonam Dendup said that the plan is to minimise the buses coming to the terminal and operate more from point to point, reducing the congestion at the terminal.

Currently there are about 170 city bus stops in Thimphu and only 70 of them are feasible for a bus-shade.

“It is important that along with the increasing number of buses and improved services, thromde also needs to create footpaths and bus stops for the convenience of the public and the bus services,” said Sonam Dendup.

Information and communications minister, DN Dhungyel, who inaugurated the new buses, said that people should take interest in traveling via public transportation and make optimal use of the buses to help the government’s initiative to curb the increasing import of vehicles and pollution associated with it.

Records with the Road Safety and Transport Authority show that there are 83,004 vehicles in the country today of which Thimphu alone has 43,043 vehicles.

Younten Tshedup