Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Despite the pandemic and lockdown problems, Phuentsholing is still a growing town with many infrastructure development projects underway. However, the largest trading hub of the country is struggling without standard public transport services.

There are currently only four buses: two coaster buses and two Tata buses, and the condition of these buses do not inspire people’s confidence. They are old and worn out. The two Tata buses reportedly do not have proper rain protection.

The buses ply only between Phuentsholing town, Pasakha, and Kabreytar.

People in Pekarzhing also point out that they need city bus services.

One resident, Tula Bir Mongar, said that Chumigthang MSS school children suffer the most without bus services.

“We manage somehow. But we definitely need bus services, especially for our schoolchildren,” he said, adding that many parents avail taxi services and pay Nu 1,300 per child per month. “It is getting difficult for those who cannot afford it.”

Further, Tula Bir said that summertime is risky for children, due to the rain and windstorms. He explained they have written to the thromde office requesting bus services in Pekarzhing.

However, it is uncertain as to whether the thromde will provide bus services to the school. Thromde officials say that bus services will be available between Phuentsholing town and Pekarzhing. The buses will still ply on the highway point, from where the distance to Chumigthang MSS will be shortened.

Another resident, Chali Maya Ghalley, said that although Pekarzhing is connected with rough roads, it is still pliable for small cars. Buses should have no problems, she said.

On the current bus conditions, Chali Maya commented that the windows are old.


The good news

On October 4, the Bhutan Post handed over the four public buses to Phuentsholing Thromde office.

While the ownership of the buses will stay with the Ministry of Information and Communications, the thromde will operate them.

Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said the four buses are not currently fit to be used as public transportation.

“The management of the buses was handled by Bhutan Post, but it is on us now. We have to improve the services,” he said.

“Public transportation must be reliable, efficient, and comfortable. And for that, we have to procure new buses and change the service system completely.”

Uttar Kumar Rai said the thromde is requesting 12 new buses from the government in the 12th Five Year Plan.

The thromde will also introduce new routes in the city.

“Only coaster buses will be applicable. And the buses require air conditioning,” the thrompon said, explaining there have been public requests for public buses from all the areas under the thromde.  “With the situation improving, new routes will be completed soon.”

Once all the routes are completed and the buses arrive, Uttar Kumar Rai said the thromde would introduce an e-ticketing system.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk