The taxi-drivers in Thimphu say their business will get more competitive with the ministry of communications allowing two private transport companies to introduce city bus services.
They say they might go out of the business as the market is already saturated. However, people using the public transport welcome the news as the existing city bus service is far from enough.
New city buses started operating from 19 April following approval from the communications ministry. The two private transport companies are Metho and Sernya.
The director of the Road Transport and Safety Authority (RSTA), Tashi Norbu, said there are 64,000 vehicles in Bhutan, including the military vehicles. The additional public transport service is expected to reduce traffic congestion.
Well managed transport system within the city, officials say, will also help minimize environmental pollution and the ongoing rupee shortage problem as it will reduce import of private cars.
Though the taxi drivers acknowledge the positive impact of more city buses, but they fear it will take away their source of livelihood.
Chencho, a taxi driver, said: “I am afraid that I might not be able to feed my kids. The number of taxis has been on the rise. And with more city buses the business prospect looks more bleak.”
Another taxi driver, Sonam Yarphel, who is a university graduate, said there are places in the country that do not have public transport services. “Instead of providing better transport services in those places, only Thimphu is targeted where the taxi business has already become unsustainable,” he added.
Some taxi drivers said the buses move around the city without fixed timing. They say even the police are not taking any action when some city buses carry extra passengers.
On the city buses hampering the business of taxi owners, the chief executive officer of Bhutan Postal Corporation Limited, Tsheten Gyeltshen, said the issue is under discussion. “We hope to come up with a final decision soon,” he said.
The operation timing of city buses will also be discussed. At the moment, the buses operate from 6am to 9pm.
Some taxi drivers The Bhutanese talked to said they are in dilemma to continue driving taxis as they earn hardly enough to make their living.
People who use cabs to commute say that taxi drivers might charge higher than normal rates to offset the loss of their business to new city buses. Also, some taxi users say the cab owners would soon ask the authority concerned to revise the existing taxi fare.
At the moment, Thimphu has 14 city buses -12 Coaster and two Eicher.