Bus operators hit by diesel price hike plead fare revision, RSTA still undecided

With no response from the Road Safety and Transport Authority on  bus fare revision following the diesel price increase of Nu 5.25 last month, bus operators have approached the communications ministry to intervene.

Passenger bus operators said transport fares remained unrevised despite increase in operational cost. “Even if bus operators do not request for a revision, fares are normally revised by RSTA as and when necessary but this time they haven’t made any changes as of yet,” the Managing Director of Sernya Transport Services, Wangdi Dorji said.

But RSTA Director General Lham Dorji said the authority is still studying the implications and hasn’t taken any decision.

“It will take some time as it involves proper study and analysis,” he said. Since the hike was substantial this time the authority alone cannot come to a decision he added.

The bus operators meanwhile have submitted a written request to the ministry for an instant fare revision.

The Managing Director of Meto Transport Services, Pema Thinley said the issue was raised with the RSTA a week after the diesel price increase. However, since there was no action initiated by the authority, bus operators personally took up the issue with the Information and Communications (MoIC) minister.

Wangdi Dorji said the ministry has assured that an officer will be assigned to work with the RSTA so that fares can be revised as soon as possible. “It’s been more than a week now,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Director General said it was not viable to increase transport fares shortly after a fuel price hike. He said “we can’t make a decision right away because fuel price is not constant”. He explained that the “system is rigid” in Bhutan’s case because transport fares once increased would prove difficult to be brought down even if there is a roll back in fuel prices.

Bus operators cited huge operation costs apart from the diesel price hike which results in substantial losses for the companies. “Even spare parts have become very expensive and one can hardly get any genuine ones,” Wangdi Dorji said.

“While bus fares remain unchanged, we can’t compromise on the quantity of fuel that our buses consume,” Wangdi Dorji added.

Sangay Dorji of Pelyab Transport Services said the recent increase in diesel price has resulted in a loss of upto Nu 400 for a bus trip.

Meanwhile, the recent diesel price hike has triggered protests in Indian states. While there is no sign of a roll back, Indian media reports reflect another possible diesel price hike.

“The government may again raise diesel prices by Rs 4-5 a litre over the next six months, demonstrating its intent to walk the talk on fiscal discipline and nurse the government’s delicate balance sheet back into health, despite political risks,” the Hindustan Times reported.

Unlike petrol, LPG and kerosene, Bhutan doesn’t enjoy any subsidy on diesel and the rates in India are equally applicable in Bhutan.

Transport fares in Bhutan was last revised in January this year taking into account inflation in diesel price and other operating costs.

The price for diesel in the capital was increased from Nu 41.75 to Nu 46.74 on September 14, which was an increase by 12%.

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