Transport: In another move to improve Thimphu city’s bus service, the government will add 10 more buses to the city’s fleet of 30.

The 10 new buses will be added in the first half of this year, according to a press release issued by the information and communications ministry. The buses are costing the government Nu 67.55 million (M).

With forty buses operating in Thimphu, the city bus service will have a capacity to transport around 11,000 passengers daily, according to the government.

The buses will be able to cater to commuters with special needs, such as the elderly and physically challenged.

In an earlier interview with the information and communications minister, it was pointed out that the buses will be purchased from India given easier accessibility to spare parts.

The additional buses will be added to routes with high passenger traffic flow, and is expected to increase frequency on the primary routes from 15 minutes to 10, during peak hours.

The time schedule, which will be posted at all bus stops, will be strictly adhered to, according to the press release. The schedule will also be made available through a mobile app in the future, it is stated. No specific date is provided.

Currently, the city bus service run by Bhutan Post struggles to cope with high commuter traffic during the peak hours in the morning and early evening given an insufficient number of buses.

On how many buses are required to meet commuter traffic, Bhutan Post CEO Karma Wangdi said that the current requirement is for 18 buses.

A proposal for 18 buses had been submitted to the government by Bhutan Post, last year.

Karma Wangdi pointed out that as the city bus service improves, demand would increase and therefore the number of total buses required could also increase. Bhutan Post has sought the help of the World Bank and other donors to determine its mid-term and long-term requirements.

Another 18 buses could possibly be provided under World Bank support.

“The Government is committed to improve city transport service and more resources will be allocated for the purpose either on its own or through donor support including the introduction of electric buses in future,” it is stated in the press release.

Besides purchasing buses, the government also subsidizes the city bus service. The government provided a subsidy of Nu 20.83 M in 2014-2015.

The information and communications ministry has also decided to upgrade between 10-15 bus stops immediately. Remaining bus stops will be upgraded subject to World Bank support.

Karma Wangdi said that Bhutan Post is also planning to pilot a smart card system in April or May. The pilot project will be funded by the UNDP. If successful, the smart card system could be rolled out for the entire city bus service.

Bhutan Post is also planning to install close circuit television cameras on all its buses.

Meanwhile, the addition of the 10 buses this year is expected to decongest traffic, lead to a reduction in vehicle emissions, and ease the housing problem in the core city area, it is pointed out in the press release.

“The burgeoning vehicular traffic in Thimphu city has become a concern to everyone. The government realizing that an efficient urban transport is the panacea to reduce vehicular traffic in the capital city has decided to purchase 10 additional buses…”, it is pointed out.

“… the government is committed to maintain an efficient, reliable and affordable urban transport system,” it is added. “However, it will not be possible for the government to maintain this without the cooperation from all stakeholders. Therefore, all stakeholders and specially the commuters are earnestly requested to make use of the city bus service regularly and give feed back and suggestions for its continuous improvement.”

Gyalsten K Dorji