Three million passengers take the bus in Dhaka city every day. But each of the 6,000 buses in the city carry only 500 passengers daily, owing to the indiscipline and traffic policy
The government is planning to begin franchising the transport system in Dhaka on a pilot basis within 15 days, in -line with a plan envisioned by the late mayor of Dhaka north Annisul Huq.
The decision came from a meeting titled ‘Disciplined bus service system in Dhaka’ held at the Secretariat on Tuesday, presided over by Local Government Division Secretary Zafar Ahmed.
“A committee was formed at the meeting to chalk out the new bus transportation model,” said an official who participated in the meeting, requesting anonymity.
“Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokon will convene the team and Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority Executive Director Khandokar Rafiqul Islam will serve as member secretary,” the official said.
The meeting was held on short notice following a directive from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The government has been working for two years on a new franchised transport system in Dhaka to bring discipline to public transport, popularly known as the colour-coded bus service, which will be operated by six bus companies.
After massive demonstrations by thousands of school and college students demanding road safety, the government has put the franchised transport system for Dhaka on fast track.
The idea of colour-coded buses was first proposed by the late Dhaka north mayor Annisul Huq to remodel Dhaka’s broken transport system.
“We have already prepared an action plan to implement the colour-coded bus service,” said Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) Executive Director Khandokar Rafiqul Islam.
“The service will start between the Shahjalal International Airport and Motijheel before Eid-ul-Azha on a pilot basis,” he added.
The DTCA is planning to run the service in liaison with the existing bus companies.
More than a dozen bus companies are currently operating on the Airport to Motijheel route, including an air-conditioned line of buses.
The DTCA has already called a meeting to discuss the plan with the bus operators today.
“DTCA has invited us to join a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) at DSCC Nagar Bhaban, but our executive body has a meeting scheduled for the same time. So it will be difficult to meet DTCA,” Khandakar Enayet Ullah, secretary, Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association said on Tuesday.
He said: “We were never against the franchising system, but the government is yet to offer us a proper model.”
According to Annisul Huq’s plan, all private bus operators would be merged to six conglomerates that would operate their buses on the 22 major routes instead of the existing hundred plus bus routes around the city. He had proposed a colour code for each of the six companies - orange, blue, maroon, pink, violet and green.
The DTCA once planned to implement the model across the city, but failed to get a response from the bus owners.
Early this year, the DTCA planned to make a separate lane for the colour-coded buses on the Airport-Motijheel route. But they do not have enough time to create a lane for the pilot run.
As per the latest plan, the pilot service will cover almost 15km of commute from Dhaka Airport to Motijheel, with 10 stoppages including Khilkhet, Kuril, Badda, Rampura and Khilgaon. If the pilot project becomes successful, the service will gradually be extended to other areas in Dhaka soon.
Transport expert Prof Shamsul Huq told the Dhaka Tribune: “The decision of piloting is wrong, because we already have examples of a franchising system. The transport system in Gulshan area is much disciplined, as a single company operates buses there. We have a similar experience in Hatirjheel.”
“If the DTCA starts this trial, there is a chance it will fail because the proposed route overlaps other routes. Some buses coming from the Airport enter the Gulshan Link Road from Pragati Sarani, some go straight to Mohakhali, and get to Motijheel via the Mouchak-Malibagh route,” he added.
“So it can never be possible to see the real scenario by franchising a single route,” he added.
“When rickshaws were franchised, it happened not only in Gulshan but the total zone including Banani, Baridhara and Niketon,” he added.
Since mayor Annisul’s death, negotiations with transport owners have slowed down and the DTCA has been unable to convince them despite many meetings.
The initiative however, has got a boost following the orders from the PMO.
DTCA officials said if bus owners refuse to join the franchise, it will start the trial run with the state-owned Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation’s buses.
The franchise system has seen success in many densely populated cities around the world. According to one study, only 3,600 franchised buses in Mumbai, India’s largest city carry an average of 4.8 million passengers every day, translating to 1,333 passengers per bus.
According to a study by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology’s (Buet) civil engineering department, three million passengers take the bus in Dhaka city every day. But each of the 6,000 buses in the city carries only 500 passengers daily, owing to the indiscipline and traffic policy.
DNCC under Annisul had considered both these studies while drawing up the colour-coded bus plan in 2016.
It had stipulated that only 4,000 buses could carry all passengers in Dhaka if brought under a franchised system, solving a lot of traffic problems.