Foul-mouthed and reckless bus drivers, unreasonably high charges for luggage and carrying extra passengers and are some of the many inconveniences and indignities passengers of public transport buses endure.
This is happening because of a lack of monitoring by the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) say users of the public transport system.
“I would like to know how RSTA monitors the public bus transport system because I had an awful experience with the driver and the owner while travelling to Mongar,” said one enraged passenger. “I had to pay Nu 1200 for carrying two extra bags. Sometimes the luggage is kept inside the bus and other times bus operators carry extra passengers creating inconveniences for passengers who have paid for the seat.”
A farmer who travelled by the meto transport bus that plies between Thimphu and Trashigang said the bus broke down on the way and reached Trashigang a day later. This delay spoilt his butter and cheese products and he suffered a loss because he was unable to sell it at a good price.
Nidup, 34, said before a bus departs the terminal the RSTA is supposed to do a pre departure check to ensure that bus operators are not carrying extra passengers and luggage, but it seemed the authority is not concerned at all. “Here in Bhutan everything is done by the bus drivers and owners,” he said.
Many bus operators agreed that the list of passenger flow and luggage is done by some official at bus ticket counter and the bus driver signs the paper. “We hardly see any RSTA official present during and before the bus departure. They don’t even check the conditions of the buses but we check,” an operator said.
Karma Pemba of RSTA said operators are committed to continually improving standards of passenger services, reliability and safety. “A complaint is a gift, because operators need to know how to improve their business,” he said.
He said that according to the Revised Contract Agreement for Operation of Passenger Transport Services, passengers are allowed to carry 20 kilogrammes (kg) of luggage free of charge. Subject to weight restrictions extra luggage will be charged @ ch.10/km for every kg. All unaccompanied parcel shall be charged @ch.10/km for every kg. But total weight must not exceed the maximum load limit specified from time to time by the authority.
The agreement also states that all passenger transport vehicles shall be serviced regularly and maintained in a safe condition at all times. All operators will be required, within the first calendar year of his lease, to implement a quality assured maintenance programme, for all passenger transport vehicles.
The operator shall make it a requirement for all drivers to ensure that all mechanical components are in the working condition before starting the journey. The driver shall immediately report any defect requiring rectification and the owner or the manager shall arrange to get the defect rectified before starting the journey. All passenger transport vehicles will be required to undergo pre departure inspection for every trip.”
“While we understand that pre departure inspection such as number of passenger flow, luggage and the conditions of buses are necessary to ensure safety of the passenger, it is practically impossible to do so because in a day there almost 40 buses going to different places and one or two RSTA officials can’t inspect all the buses,” said Karma Pemba. “A lot of people complain about luggage charge and we will soon revise it.”
Karma Pemba said that RSTA does make sure that bus operators does not carry extra passengers and if drivers are caught doing so they are liable to a fine of Nu 1000 a person.
“While carrying extra passengers is a concern, broken window and torn seat cover is not a big issue. RSTA is always committed toward improving public transportation,” he said.