The Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) revised the fares for passenger bus and taxi services on July 21. Prior to the fare revision, the taxi fares for both local and long distance was Nu 15 per km. But now with the 6 percent fare increase, the new rate for long distance is Nu 16 per km and Nu 18 per km for local routes. The commuters on passenger bus is charged Nu 1 per km extra for long distance commute.
The Director General, RSTA, Lham Dorji, said that the fare revision for public transport services are routinely done twice in a year, in January and July, depending on the operating cost of the drivers, such as the price of the vehicles, salaries of the employees, fuel price, maintenance cost, and establishment cost of the operators. “If the operation cost is less than 5 percent then RSTA normally does not revise the fares and go with the existing fares because the difference made would be very minimal,” the Director General, RSTA, said.
A regular commuter, Aum Yeshey Selden, is not happy about the fare increase. “I’ve a shop in Thimphu but I stay in Taba, so I have to travel every day, to and fro, in public transport. Now with the yearly increase in public transport services, survival in Thimphu is becoming very challenging. I wish the concerned officials engaged in such a policy would take into consideration the difficulties of the regular commuters as well,” she said.
Another commuter, Chenga Dorji, is a new employee in a company and is paid a nominal salary. “I have no other option than to avail public transport services and now with the rising fares, I feel so overburdened and I cannot save a penny for my future. The buses are so cramped and most of the time, I have to travel by taxi and living expenses soar up. I suggest RSTA to initiate more city bus services so that we do not have to always travel by taxis,” Chenga Dorji said.
A student, Sonam Dorji, said, “I live in Hejo and I have to either travel by a bus or a taxi every day. I am very unhappy with the recent fare revision because I am always pressuring my parents for money.”
The General Secretary, RSTA, said, “The percentage increase in the revised fare should be considered fair because RSTA has also taken into account the affordability in the interest of the regular commuters. The recent fare revision came into effect after studying the operating cost of the drivers, which is mostly due to the slight increase in fuel prices from January to June 2015.”
On the other hand, taxi drivers have a mixed reaction to the new fare revision. A taxi driver in Thimphu, Ugay, said, “I think the fare revision does not bring much benefit to taxi drivers like us because most of the public now refuse to travel by taxis and instead prefer bus services. They say the rates are too high.” He added that taxi drivers are having a hard time in finding passengers.
Another taxi driver welcomed the fare revision. “I am happy and satisfied with the recent fare revision because it has been around five years that the taxi fares weren’t revised. The new revision in the fares gives us an opportunity to earn well. The decision though late, is well thought, I would say,” said the taxi driver.
When the paper enquired as to why the fare revision came into effect right after the decrease in fuel prices, RSTA said, “It was a total coincidence. By the time we announced the fare revision, there was also a decrease in fuel prices. But such decrease or fluctuations will be considered when we carry out the next fare revision which will happen on January 2016.”
RSTA said the fare revision should have come into effect earlier than it was declared, but due to unavoidable circumstances, RSTA had to delay it. “We are soon going to print out the revised rate sheets and circulate around for the reference of general public so that they are aware about the new rates. Commuters should not be asked to pay more than the rates fixed by RSTA or else the drivers will be penalized,” the Director General said. The details on the revised rate charts are available on the RSTA website.
The last fare revision for passenger bus and taxi services was carried out in 2013 and 2011 respectively.