10-15 new bus stops and 10 new buses to be added soon 

Transport: Following public feedback, Thimphu’s model bus stop design will not be replicated for future bus stops, the information and communications ministry has decided.

The bus stop, which was built with a roof designed to look like a leaf to symbolize the country’s environment policies, prompted much public criticism about its design and cost.

Many observed that the roof, which was supported by a steel pillar would not protect waiting commuters from the natural elements like wind and rain as it was too high and offered no side barriers.

The ministry spent Nu 900,000 to build the model bus stop, however, other costs such as training of local workers were also included in the final cost. It was pointed out that future bus stops, built in the same design, would drop by 40-50 percent as a result of better efficiency and economy of scale.

Other features like a bus bay, CCTV, lighting, trash bins, space for information on the bus service, advertisements and social messages, and wheel chair accessibility is also provided.

Information and communications minister, Lyonpo DN Dhungyel, said that both positive and negative feedback had been received by the ministry. Lyonpo added that the feedback would be considered for future bus stop designs. “A redesign will be done,” he said.

Lyonpo reiterated that the model bus stop was intended as a sample as was pointed out by officials during the opening of the model bus stop last month.

He said that the size, height, architecture, design, and cost will change. “Everything will change,” Lyonpo said, so that future bus stop structures are acceptable to most people.

The ministry is yet to select an architect.

Thimphu city has 105 bus stops and 77 could be upgraded through World Bank funding.

However, Lyonpo DN Dhungyel said that the ministry would focus on upgrading between 10-15 bus stops immediately on a priority basis. Priority in this case means locations where bus stops with shelters and other amenities are most needed.

Upgrading the rest of Thimphu city’s bus stops would be dependent on securing funds from the World Bank, Lyonpo said.

During the opening of the model bus stop last month, the former thrompon had said that not all bus stops need to be upgraded and that some of the World Bank funding support should be diverted towards the acquisition of more buses.

Thimphu city is currently serviced by 34 buses. An additional 18 is expected under World Bank funding. The former thrompon said at least 30 more buses needs to be added to Thimphu’s fleet.

Lyonpo DN Dhungyel said that since the funds being received is project tied it may not be possible to divert it for other purposes.

But he also pointed out that the finance ministry has approved the purchase of 10 buses immediately. He said this will augment the existing capacity.

The buses are being purchased from India. Lyonpo said that India was chosen as it will be easier to acquire spare parts from there.

The model bus stop was funded by the UNDP and is part of the government’s effort to improve public transportation in the wake of congestion as a result of increasing numbers of private vehicles.

Gyalsten K Dorji