Authorities aim for success following the student movement demanding road safety
Just two weeks after its announcement, a circular bus service has been introduced in Dhaka city aiming to bring discipline to the public transportation sector and easing commuter suffering.
Dhaka north and south city corporations launched the service on Wednesday on two routes: the first between Dhanmondi and Azimpur, and the second from Abdullahpur to Motijheel.
The move came in the wake of the latest student movement demanding road safety, following the death of a public university student at Kuril. It was the second such movement since August last year, when the capital and parts of Bangladesh came to a standstill when students took to the streets after a similar road incident.
Primarily, four buses will run on the Dhanmondi-Azimpur route, with 36 stops. Four double-deckers will also hit the streets from Abdullahpur to Motijheel, via Kuril and Rampura, say sources at Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC), which will operate the buses.
The buses will be available to commuters on both routes at 5 to 10 minute intervals. Passengers will be charged Tk10, Tk20, or Tk30, depending on the distance travelled.
BRTC’s Deputy General Manager (operation of buses) Md Almas Ali said they will gradually add at least 10 more buses on the first route.
The circular bus service, which Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mayor Sayeed Khokon on March 13 said would be introduced within April, will start from 6:30am and may continue until 10pm, subject to commuter demand, added Almas.
Meanwhile, a BRTC press release said the number of double-deckers will be raised to 24 on the second route in the next two weeks.
Currently, at least 42 buses are running in Gulshan as Dhaka Chaka, the capital’s maiden circular bus service. It was launched in August 2016 in the city’s diplomatic zone.
The move, initiated by late Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) mayor Annisul Huq, was meant to help commuters of the area travel more safely following the July 1, 2016, terrorist attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan, Dhaka.
Speaking at Wednesday’s inaugural event at Kalabagan, DSCC Mayor Khokon said a committee formed to manage the bus service through a firm, was working to ensure proper customer service in line with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s guidelines.
“As part of this initiative, this service has been launched. We are optimistic that it will lessen gridlock in parts of Dhaka, and ensure better customer service and road discipline,” he said.
Khokon who serves as the chief of the committee, said the safety of citizens was their top priority, and added: “We will ensure the highest standard of service at the lowest cost possible.”
DNCC Mayor Md Atiqul Islam and Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Asaduzzaman Mia were also present at the event.
Atiqul said: “We will ensure safer roads with a combined effort. The effect of this will be visible soon.”
Earlier, the DMP sent a list of recommendations to the committee, pointing out a lack of modern public transport in areas such as Dhanmondi and New Market. They also proposed a bus service in those areas to reduce congestion exacerbated by private vehicles and rickshaws.
Asaduzzaman added: “We want to re-establish discipline in the transportation sector within the next 15 days. We do not want any more casualties on the roads.
“With this new bus service on these routes, two more services in Uttara and Motijheel respectively, will soon be introduced. This initiative will lessen the number of private and non-motorized vehicles on the streets.”
Welcoming the move, National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR) General Secretary, Ashis Kumar Dey, said the service has to be commuter-friendly. “Passenger safety and comfort must be the priority.”
Recalling a similar service launched a few years ago for schoolchildren that eventually failed, Ashis said the new bus service must not meet the same fate.
The service would help curtail road fatalities, hoped Ashis, whose organization has no data on road accidents, city by city.
BRTC Chairman Farid Ahmed Bhuiyan was unavailable for comment on plans regarding the service.
Annisul’s dream in limbo
After last year’s road safety movement, Prime Minister Hasina directed DSCC and the LGRD Ministry to bring Dhaka’s public transport services under six companies, a plan first devised by Annisul.
According to the plan, all private bus operators would come under six companies and operate bus services on 22 major routes, instead of the 100 existing bus routes, that make the city chaotic.
The bus services were supposed to be in six colours: orange, blue, maroon, pink, violet, and green.
In a meeting on July 24, 2016, around 2,000 bus operators and workers agreed to join the colour-coded system in the presence of Annisul, and Road Transport and Bridges Minister, Obaidul Quader.
But after Annisul died on November 30, 2017, the project fell through and the authorities could not convince bus owners to follow through.