About six public transport operators submitted a signed petition last week to the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) requesting the authority to improve the condition of the East-West highway.

The petition stated that the road condition has damaged the buses plying on it incurring loss to the operators of the transport services.

Chief Transport Officer, Karma Pemba said, the East-West highway widening work and the monsoon season have worsened the road condition.

The road condition led one of the transport operators Meto Transport to suspend its service to Trashigang, Mongar, Bumthang and Trashiyangtse on July 11. Meto Transport Service’s owner, Sonam Tshewang, said, that coaster buses are not meant to ply on such road conditions. “Travelling on such road means risk to the passengers and the drivers,” he said.

He added that the public would blame the bus operators if the bus meets with accidents while plying on such roads. “Even if we refuse to provide service, the blame will be on us,” he said. “We are not asking for a blacktopped road but at least the road must be in condition for the bus to ply.”

On August 1, public transport operators and RSTA officials met to discuss problems faced by the bus operators.

Karma Pemba said that Department of Roads (DoR) has instructed its field officers to help clear the roads. “We have requested them to improve the roads by filling the potholes with pebbles and by clearing the slides on the roads,” he said.

He said that the site coordination among the DoR, RSTA, traffic police and dzongkhag officials must be improved to update travellers and operators to function on schedule.

Some buses of Meto Transport remain unavailable for service because of the unavailability of spare parts.

Karma Pemba said that the suppliers have been asked to keep spare parts available for the vehicles.

He said that public transport operators are not allowed to suspend services on their will. The RSTA should be informed of the reasons and should receive approval from the authority.

Thimphu base in-charge with RSTA, Ngawang Gyelthsen, said there are more than five buses plying the East-West highway carrying more than 160 passengers every day. There are 18 buses that ply the East-West highway to and fro every week. There are 66 bus operators in the country.

Phurpa Lhamo