YK Poudel

Water Male Tiger Year: Transport – Despite inconveniences caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the transport sector saw significant changes in the Tiger Year.


An electric year for the surface transport sector

The Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority (BCTA), in its effort to reduce vehicular emissions, the country aims to replace 70 percent of the vehicles with electric vehicles in the next 14 years, by 2035. The target is specified in the Electric Vehicle Road Map 2035.

The Electric Vehicle Road Map 2035 specifies the target and complies with the Low Emission Development Strategy for Surface Transport (2021-2050) policy.

Kuenphen Motors, one of the motor vehicle dealers in Thimphu, imported 80 EVs in 2022.

The Executive Director of Bhutan Taxi Association, Tshering Penjor, said that there are 228 electric taxis in the country of the 7,000 taxis in the country.

In view of the government’s initiative to promote Electric Vehicles in the country, the Authority took over the construction of Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations in 14 Dzongkhags, which will be fully functional by early March this year.

During the financial year 2021-22, BCTA provided a total of 261,664 offline services to the general public. Additionally, BCTA provided a total of 110,585 services through online platforms such as websites and mRSTA mobile apps.

According to BCTA, public transport services are very essential for the general public across the country. Increased connectivity and improved reliability of public transport services play a vital role in enhancing the socio-economic lives of the people.

Passenger transport services are one of the key services that the authority endeavours to promote in terms of safety, service quality, accessibility and rural connectivity. A total of 17 additional new passenger transport routes were identified and buses were added in the country.

There are 201 passenger buses operating on 147 different routes in the country.

The Authority’s goal is to reduce road crash fatalities by 50 percent by 2030. Any road safety strategy will, therefore, be targeted to reduce road crashes, road crash fatalities and injury.

Bhutan witnessed a decrease in road crash fatalities in the financial year 2021-22. Nonetheless, there was an increase in road crashes and road crash injuries.

According to BCTA record, the current road crash fatality rate is 6.3 persons per 10,000 vehicles or 630 fatalities.

Statistical reports from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport (MoIT) show that the country recorded 780 motor vehicle (MV) accidents last year.

Learning from the past, the focused area of intervention for the fiscal year 2023 shall be improving road safety to reduce the number of deaths and injuries, and awareness of three leading causes of road crash fatalities: drink driving, unlicensed driving, and speeding.

To increase the enforcement of safety regulations, BCTA purchased various safety equipment to carry out driver drug testing, speed-detection device, alcohol breath analyzers and e-RaLIS access to road inspectors for highway inspections.

As per the authority’s record of December 31, 2022, there were 125,534 motor vehicles in the country.

The authority issued 12,803 licences in the fiscal year 2021-2022, an increase of 5,376 licences from the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

As of December 31, 2022, BCTA had issued 178,763 licences from five regional offices and 17 base offices, 154,138 ordinary licences and 24,625 professional driving licences.


Sobbing Tiger Year for civil aviation in Bhutan

Going by the number of seats booked by the tourists, there will be a smaller number of international tourist arrivals this spring season.

“We have less than 20 percent of our seats booked during this festival period,” Chief Executive Officer of Bhutan Airlines, Pema Nadik, said. “In the pre-pandemic period, our scheduled flights would have been fully sold out by now and we would be planning additional flights to meet the demand.”

The total number of international air passengers in 2021-2022 was 13,444 (50,382 in 2020), which is a 73.3 percent decrease.

Bhutan witnessed a 36.7 percent increase in the number of domestic air passengers in 2022.

Tour operators attribute the drop in tourist arrivals to the change in tourism policy and sustainable development fee (SDF) of US Dollar 200 per international tourist and Nu 1,200 for regional tourists.

The other factors, according to both locals and outsiders, could be charging higher airfares. For instance, the return flight to Delhi was increased from Nu 22,000 to Nu more than 25,000 recently. The fare increase two-fold for international visitors.

Airlines in Bhutan have reduced their flight schedules by almost 50 percent as compared to pre-Covid-19.

The airlines claimed a loss of Nu 1.42 billion over the last three years of the pandemic.