Road Transport: Operators place flurry of demands

Leaders of road transport associations yesterday demanded the government hike bus fares and give them financial benefits as their businesses were "hit hard by the pandemic". They raised the demands at the 28th meeting of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) at the head office of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), meeting sources said. The leaders also got into a verbal spat with Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), over some leasing out city bus terminals.

Meanwhile, the meeting, presided over by Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, also the NRSC president, formed two committees to deal with two issues. One committee will scrutinise and finalise the draft of National Road Safety Strategic Action Plan-2021-2024 while the other will work on how to implement recommendations made by another committee to regulate small vehicles, including easy-bikes. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, chiefs of different government agencies, and transport leaders and experts took part in the meeting both virtually and in person.

FLURRY OF DEMANDS

Khondaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said a lot of decisions were made to control three-wheelers on highways but those were yet to be implemented.

Referring to the Covid-19 situation, he said all sectors got financial benefits, but they were deprived of any government incentives. Prices of every material required for a vehicl have increased by 40 to 50 percent in last seven years but the bus fare was not hiked during this period. A decision was made in 2019 to hike bus fare, but it was not incresed, Enayet said.

"We are requesting you [authorities] to take steps for increasing bus fare immediately," a meeting participant told this newspaper quoting Enayet as saying. The demand came two weeks after a government-formed committee proposed fixing a bus fare of Tk 2.2 per kilometre on the Ghatarchar-Kanchpur Bridge route, where a single transport company will operate all the buses on a pilot basis from April 1. The proposed fare is almost 30 percent higher than the current fares in Dhaka city.

Romesh Chandra Ghosh, chairman of Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners' Association, said they have submitted an application seeking some financial benefit, including waiving interest of loan during the pandemic period, but no action was taken.

Nazrul Islam, secretary of the Road Transport and Highways Division, said their petition was forwarded to the finance ministry, which sent it to the governor of Bangladesh Bank.

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