Some passengers and people using the bus service in Thimphu reported that the fee charged by the drivers to carry extra luggage or any courier delivery items through the transport buses from Thimphu to other dzongkhags is too high.
A private employee, Thinley, 31, is not happy with the extra luggage charge for a journey to Trashiyangtse from Thimphu. “I paid more for the luggage charge than the ticket price,” he said. Thinley had not bought a consignment ticket and had handed the luggage directly to the bus driver.
An employee with a civil society organization, Tshering Lhabu, 30, said he had a small carton to be delivered and was charged Nu 100. He said the amount is very high as the bus was bound straight for the destination that he wanted the carton to be delivered at. He said he did not know about the consignment ticket.
The consignment ticket guarantees that the luggage is safely delivered and also compensation will be paid if lost.
The Bus Booking Manager, Sonam Tshewang, said such issues would be resolved, if the passengers or the person who wants to send the courier delivery, buys the consignment ticket. “People hardly come for the consignment ticket,” he added.
He further added that people rush in at the last hour and take their luggage or delivery package to either the driver or the handy boy and that is when the haggling and fee controversy arise.
As per the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), an individual passenger is allowed to carry a luggage of 20 kgs free and for every 10 kgs extra luggage, Cheltrum 0.10 is charged for a km. The carrying capacity of the coaster bus apart from the weight of the passengers is 1,000 kgs and other heavier buses is at 1,500 kgs.
Therefore for a distance of 171 km from Thimphu to Phuentsholing, the charge for an extra luggage is Nu 17, and from Thimphu to Trashigang, the charge is Nu 55 and from Thimphu to Trashiyangtse, the charge is Nu 58.
Chief Transport Officer, RSTA, Karma Pemba, said though the authority has the rule at place, however, the implementation process is problematic as the drivers and passengers encounter various situations.
As per the consignment ticket, which is uniformly charged throughout the country, a document or tender enclosed in an envelope is charged a fee of Nu 50 and an average-sized carton would be charged around Nu 100.
Sonam Tshewang said there is lack of coordination between the authority, bus operators, driver, and the public. As for the luggage weighing issue, he suggested that the authority should come up with the weighing system.
He also said that there is a need for a security system to check the contents of the luggage because one may carry any illegal items or inflammable items, like gas cylinder, and heavy metal parts. He said the authority should differentiate the items that can be transported or not. Sonam Tshewang also suggested the need for information desks at the bookings and hotline numbers.
Karma Pemba said RSTA has not received any complaints from the passengers regarding the high charge for extra luggage or delivery charges. He said RSTA would take action if such a complaint is lodged officially with the authority.
“Passenger bus is for carrying passengers and not for goods,” he said, adding that overloading and overcrowding of the buses is very difficult to monitor due to human resource shortage.
He said that the weighing bridge at Phuentsholing and Samdrupjongkhar would be set up soon. He said the luggage weighing will be difficult to monitor as it will be time consuming and the buses have to move on time.
The hotlines are to be reintroduced after discussion with Bhutan Telecom. The hotlines were introduced in the five regions earlier but it was discontinued due to misuse by the public.