Those who listened to the deliberations in the joint sitting of the Parliament yesterday found the discussion relevant, if not impacting them every hour of their life. In reviewing the Public Accounts Committee’s report on safe and sustainable road transport systems, the need, as apparent it is, is safer, reliable and sustainable public transport systems.

The ideas from our elected representatives are brilliant – starting electric trams, digging tunnels and broadening roads, and decongesting the city to create space for an efficient transport system. This is the need of the hour and should be high on any government’s priority. How we do it is a different story.

The need is identified. The road ahead is not clear.

There are challenges. Tunnels can cut distance, but are expensive. A 760 metre-long tunnel cost 40 to 50-km long surface road, according to the works and human settlement minister. Bus rapid transit system is a solution to urban transport, but there is no infrastructure. In fact, there is no space to create the infrastructure even if we have the budget. We have the plans but not the guts to implement it and good plans got sabotaged.

If we need to create infrastructure, we need space. To create space, we need to decongest the city. We had a grand plan to do it. The Lungtenzampa bus terminal was to be shifted to Olakha a long time ago. Now Olakha is more congested than Lungtenzampa. We need a few more bus terminals.

The fuel station at the mouth of the city, everybody agrees is unsafe and choking the entrance to the city. The Lungtenzampa bridge is faulty in design and unappealing in aesthetics. Yet nothing could be done.

In the meantime, our roads are overwhelmed with vehicles. Traffic policemen who take turns to divert the traffic at Norzin Lam would disagree with many of us feeling proud of being the only country without traffic lights. They must be silently complaining of sore arms every night.

We have invested and invested heavily in road infrastructure. It was the harbinger of development and for the past few decades, it was the priority to the extent that governments were judged based on the roads they built.

Road infrastructure is still important. The priority in the past was access. It is quality today to ensure safety and reliability and shorten travel time. Our urban roads are congested because there are no alternatives. It is common sense to make roads shorter to save time and money. It is not the case in the capital. For instance, there is not a single road to reach Motithang in a straight line from the Sunday market. A resident of Changjalu has to go to Olakha to come back to Changjiji. This is ridiculous yet nobody is complaining or thinking.

What we have achieved is adding pressure on the limited infrastructure. In the capital city, there is a vehicle for two people. This is with bans on the import of vehicles and restrictions on lending. We are late, but not doomed. If we are serious about improving public transport, efficiency, affordability, sustainability and most of all, making hard decisions is the way forward.