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Dhaka Tribune

Ride-sharing services resume with only 255 vehicles

Uber and Pathao allowed 15 and 2 cars, respectively 

Update : 21 Jun 2020, 07:03 PM

Ride-sharing services have resumed in Bangladesh on a limited scale amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Around three months after ride-sharing services were suspended as part of measures to control the spread of Covid-19, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) decided to permit enlisted vehicles to provide services following a virtual meeting with the ride sharing companies on Saturday.

However, only 255 cars, microbuses and ambulances will be allowed to operate under the 12 ride-sharing companies from Sunday, and no motorcycles will be allowed to operate due to health safety reasons.

The BRTA issued on order on the resumption of ride-sharing services on Sunday, saying legal action would be taken if unlisted vehicles were found plying the roads. The 12 ride sharing companies have already received the order.

According to the BRTA, there are about 123,000 vehicles registered with different ride-hailing companies, including 104,000 motorcycles. The rest are cars, microbuses and ambulances.

Of the total vehicles, only around 1,300 were listed under the 12 companies with the BRTA, and most of them are motorcycles, according to the authorities.

The BRTA says only 126 vehicles (15 cars and 111 motorcycles) under Uber have enlistment certificates, while 118 (two cars and 116 motorcycles) under Pathao have them. As a result, Uber and Pathao can operate 15 and two cars, respectively.

BRTA Chairman Md Yousub Ali Mollah said: “It is mandatory for ride-sharing companies to list their registered vehicles with the BRTA for a Tk1,000 fee. We do not know why the companies did not list all their registered vehicles. 

 “We will strictly enforce the law if found unlisted vehicles plying the roads. Motorbike are not allowed for ride-sharing services,” he added.  

Ride-sharing services have been suspended since March 26, just before the government declared public holidays (lockdown) to prevent spread of coronavirus. The government lifted the public holidays from May 31 and allowed busses and other public transport to run from June 1, but operations of ride-sharing services remained suspended. 

Major ride-hailing companies, including Uber and Pathao, recently wrote to the BRTA for permission to resume operations.

Ride sharing association disappointed with BRTA decision

The Bangladesh Ride Sharing Association (BaRSA) has expressed deep disappointment with the BRTA decision to allow only 255 vehicles with enlistment certificates to for provision of ride-sharing services and disallow ride-sharing on motorcycles.

“We do not believe that our large customer base can reliably be served with such a small and inadequate pool of vehicles. We had formally requested the BRTA multiple times to resolve the technical limitations in its enlistment portal and allow a one-year time frame to facilitate smooth and systematic issuance of enlistment certificates,” said a BaRSA statement issued on Sunday.

“While these issues remain unresolved, the drastic measure outlined in the BRTA directive is a blow to an entire industry that has created opportunities for a vast population. We cannot see how the public interest of middle-class commuters and aspiring young income earners has been served in the decision,” it added.

The statement also said the ride-sharing industry was poorly represented, as an international ride-sharing operator “unilaterally approached and presented its recommendations” to the regulator.

“As a result, the discussions failed to incorporate the local voices that would have highlighted the needs of the everyday commuters in Bangladesh, who rely on affordable transportation options such as motorbikes,” it said.

BaRSA asked for the immediate resumption of ride-sharing services with all vehicles, including motorcycles, subject to the standard operating procedures they had proposed to the BRTA.

They also asked the BRTA to allow all vehicles registered with ride-sharing companies to operate until the enlistment process is fully implemented over a one-year time frame.

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