Public transport sees no new investment
Worn, tattered and modified vehicles have thrown the country’s public transport system into disarray, with no new investors showing interest in joining the company amid existing monopolies.
Buses, auto rickshaws running on compressed natural gas, four-wheeled vehicles, human transporters and taxis all operate with dented bodies, barely any paint, broken glasses and windows, holding the public hostage .
Traffic jams, unqualified drivers and lax supervision by authorities were some other reasons attributed to the lack of new investment in the transport sector.
Extortion, lack of parking spaces, poor road conditions and rising fuel prices are also responsible for the situation.
This led to a crisis in the public transport system despite huge demand.
Unholy competition between buses, even those of the same company, for more trips reduces the buses to a shambles, causing the public to suffer.
People are seen crowding buses and human transporters in inhumane conditions, especially in the capital. Those hesitant to use them are forced to pay high fares to find rickshaws.
Taxi services are also on the verge of extinction in Bangladesh, with no new investment taking place amid the growing popularity of ride-sharing services.
Abdul Matlub Ahmad, Chairman of the Nitol-Niloy Group, told New Age that the return of investment in the transport sector was difficult to recover due to traffic jams. “Competition in the bus industry is fierce, which keeps profits low,” he said.
Matlub offered to limit the number of vehicles in Dhaka and run buses under a few select companies.
To attract new investors, he believes that strict enforcement of the rules, an adequate number of public transport vehicles and fixed public transport fares are necessary.
Senior urban planner and chairman of the Bangladesh Institute of Architects, Mubasshar Hussein, told New Age that no new investors are interested in the transport sector because it lacks discipline.
He said buses were running with damaged bodies, almost half of drivers were driving buses without a license and buses were competing with each other, which discouraged new investors, he said.
“Dhaka Chaka to Gulshan and the circular bus service to Hatirjheel show us that people will follow the rules if everything is put under the system,” he said, adding, “We need streamlining of routes from bus to put the buses under the control of a few companies. ‘
The system has not yet been implemented because 99% of the money invested in this sector is illegal and many buses are owned by influential government officials, he observed.
Although the road transport sector in Bangladesh is mainly operated by the private sector, new investments are not coming in due to some challenges, said Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Center for Policy Dialogue.
“Influential transport owners and labor groups with political ties control the sector. They indulge in the culture of extortion and shoddy service. The government has not played the role it was supposed to in controlling the sector,” he said.
Moazzem found the current public transport system in Bangladesh unsuitable for a middle-income country and urged the government to strictly enforce laws and rules to attract new investment.
The lack of institutional knowledge of people in the sector is a barrier to attracting new investors, said Suvenker Ghosh Rakesh, managing director of Shymoli NR Travels.
He said he joined the transport business, as it had been his family business since 1968.
“Most uneducated people enter the transport sector because they don’t have other skills,” he said, adding that the drivers are the same. “They learn the trade by starting a career as child laborers.”
“With traffic jams, poor road conditions and lack of strict supervision, the authorities are also discouraging investors in this sector,” said Suvenker, also co-secretary of the Bangladesh Bus and Truck Owners Association. .
Secretary General of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association and Managing Director of Ena Paribahan Khandakar Enayet Ullah said new investors were not interested as there was no return on business in the capital city.
“If the vehicles cannot move due to traffic jams, how many trips can the buses make per day? he asked, urging the government to reduce traffic congestion to attract more investors.
An official from Toma Construction and Co. Ltd., which joined the taxi service business in Dhaka in 2014, said the business has so far suffered losses of Tk 38 crore as the service does not failed to gain popularity due to traffic congestion, police cases amid lack of parking spaces, driver management and poor road conditions.
He added that the company does not plan to invest more in the service.
Professor Shamsul Haque, former director of the Accident Research Institute, said the bus route franchise system could be a solution to the problem.
This will end extortion and corruption, and business investment will come into the sector, he said.
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority executive director Shabiha Pervin accused investors of being impatient.
“Investors always want a quick return and profit. They should wait for the break-even point in the transport sector,” she said, adding that the government was trying to place all buses in the capital under the control of a few companies.
Road Transport and Bridges Division Secretary ABM Amin Ullah Nuri said investment in new buses is not increasing due to rising fuel oil prices.
“Investors always consider the interest of any investment. If they see they won’t make any profit, they won’t invest there,” he said.
He claimed that some buses are added to the roads daily and said taxis on the roads have been replaced by cars as many people can afford them now.