Transport owners lobby against safe distancing orders in public transport

Operators have said that they would be hiking the fare if they have to operate at half capacity.

Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary

Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary

The Daily Star


January 13, 2022

DHAKA – Transport leaders are at it once again: throwing their weight to get the government to take a decision that serves their interests.

With the view to preventing a third wave of Covid-19 cases and a subsequent lockdown, the government has ordered half capacity in public transport to maintain social distancing.

The move has left the transport leaders with their arms up in the air.

They are now engineering to get the Cabinet Division to walk back on the decision in a fashion not too dissimilar from the one seen back in November to get the government to hike the bus and launch fares following a 23 percent hike in diesel and kerosene prices.

The Daily Star has learnt after speaking with a host of launch and bus operators that they would be hiking the fare if they have to operate at half capacity.

To avert such a scenario, which would be of great inconvenience for the ordinary citizen, the launch and road transport leaders were busy lobbying yesterday.

In a letter to the shipping secretary, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) said the big launches are spacious enough to maintain social distancing even at full capacity. Besides, launches have separate cabins.

Subsequently, it requested the shipping ministry to take steps to amend the cabinet division’s order.

“We are waiting for a response,” BIWTA Chairman Golam Sadeq told The Daily Star last night.

Contacted, Mahbub Uddin Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passengers’ carriers) Association, said they did not demand to operate launch with full capacity but it would be better if the government allowed them to.

“Like the planes, we want to operate buses with full capacity while maintaining the health guidelines,” said Mashiur Rahman Ranga, president of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, after a meeting with the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).

There would be a scarcity of public transport on the roads if the buses and minibuses run at half capacity while all offices and other establishments stay open, BRTA Chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder told reporters after the meeting quoting the transport leaders.

The transport owners also demanded that the government arrange a crash programme to vaccinate all transport workers as many of them are still unvaccinated, he said, adding that all their proposals would be forwarded to the road transport and bridges ministry.

Like the BIWTA, the BRTA will write to the ministry to amend the cabinet division’s decision regarding half capacity, said an official requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

As things stand, the road transport owners will operate at half capacity at the existing fare from Saturday, according to Mazumder — just like the Bangladesh Railway.

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