Traffic lights at certain junctions may be considered

Management: In an effort to address Thimphu city’s growing traffic problems and improve the quality of transport services, a feasibility study for an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) will begin next month.

An ITS is a traffic management system that uses technology to manage traffic more effectively and efficiently.

Some of the technologies that will be considered for installation in Thimphu are the establishment of a 24/7 control centre, traffic lights at some junctions, parking guidance systems, CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras, and speed monitoring cameras, among others, according to a document published by the UN.

It is also pointed out in the document that the ITS CCTV system should complement the Royal Bhutan Police’s (RBP) project to install CCTVs in Thimphu city. The RBP’s “Safe City Solution” which is currently in a very early stage but could result in a number of CCTVs installed throughout Thimphu as a crime prevention and detection tool. RBP will be working with Bhutan Telecom to install the CCTV system.

The UN in Bhutan is supporting the ITS feasibility study under a low-emission capacity building project funded by the European Commission and governments of Germany and Australia.

The study will also develop a plan for the setting up of a traveller information system, which displays bus arrivals and departures at bus terminals and even at certain bus stops in Thimphu and Phuentsholing.

Other technologies that the study will consider are weighing stations, automated vehicle identification systems, incident detection systems, real-time road and weather information systems, among others.

An ITS for Thimphu was proposed a year back but lack of funds delayed its study and implementation.

Information and communications chief administrative officer, Sonam Dhendup, who is also the project manager for ITS, said that funding support for the study has been acquired from the UN.

An international expert will carry out the study between February and June and the recommendations will be submitted to the government.

Implementation of the recommendations will again be subject to budget availability however.

Asked if traffic lights will be installed if recommended by the study, Sonam Dhendup said that such a recommendation would be subject to further discussions to determine if the need is timely.

A Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) official said that the study should result in improvements to the public transport system such as new and improved bus stops, along with equipment and training for those involved in the public transport system.

The official also said that the installation of CCTVs would aid in collecting accurate traffic data, which could be used by the thromde and other agencies when it comes to road design.

Observers, including the traffic police, have pointed out in the past that better road design can bring down the number of accidents in the country.

“Right now, information collection is a problem,” said the RSTA official.

A total of 791 vehicle accidents occurred in Bhutan last year with 76 percent of them taking place in Thimphu city alone. Road congestion is expected to worsen with thirteen new vehicles being imported daily since the ban on imports was lifted last July.

By Gyalsten K Dorji