Public transport services struggle to keep business afloat

Chhimi Dema

Starting sometime next week, the bus fares are going to increase by 1.5 times.

For the transport services the routes to the country’s southern region are the most lucrative. With the advent of Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions to region, the transport services are hard-pressed to keep the business going.

Travel restrictions to and from Samtse, Phuntsholing, Samdrupjongkhar, and Gelephu continue.

A 36-year-old woman from Thimphu, at the ticket counter, said that in a day only about 10 people come for the tickets.

She said that even with the carrying capacity of 50 percent, the buses do not get enough passengers.

“If the business income keeps dropping, I might not even get my salary,” she said.

Sangay Dorji, a public transport owner, said that there was no income since the pandemic.

A public transport owner in Thimphu said that it was difficult to meet the operational cost when they are allowed only to carry 50 percent of passengers.

“But we have not shut the service to retain our staff,” he said, adding that maintenance cost has escalated.

“Some of us have availed loan to pay the staff,” he said.

Transport service owners have reportedly proposed to the Road and Transport Safety Authority (RSTA) that the cost of passengers that the bus cannot carry should be divided among the 50 percent of the passengers.

“We have not heard from RSTA yet,” the owner said.

Officiating director general, Ugyen Norbu, said that the operators proposed to earn 100 percent from the 50 percent of the passengers they can carry.

 The new fare for a passenger would be the current fare times 1.5.

For example, an individual travelling to Lobesa, Punakha, pays Nu 100 now, but after the revision they would have to pay Nu 150 (Nu 100 x 1.5).

“If the rate was increased by 1.5 times then the operators would get 75 percent income that would enable them to sustain their business,” he said.

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