Commuters in Dhaka have had a nightmarish day due to the unavailability of public transport on Sunday as most operators paused their services to avoid heated altercations with passengers over a readjusted fare chart, which is yet to be made public.
Many operators of long-haul coaches from Dhaka followed suit, citing the same reason.
Bangladesh authorities increased bus fares by as much as 22 percent on Saturday for diesel-run buses, following a record hike in fuel oil prices.
Passengers will be charged Tk 2.20 per kilometre on long routes, which is Tk 0.40 or 22 percent more on long routes, according to the announcement which was made after a meeting with the officials of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, or BRTA, and transport owners.
The authorities raised bus fares by Tk 0.35, or 16.27 percent to Tk 2.50 per kilometre in Dhaka and Chattogram city areas.
In other cities, it was raised to Tk 2.20 from Tk 1.70 per kilometre. In the areas around Dhaka, the fare will be Tk 2.8 per kilometre, compared with Tk 2.5 previously.
The minimum fare has been kept unchanged at Tk 10. It is Tk 8 for minibuses.
The prices of diesel and kerosene were increased by 42.5 percent to Tk 114 per litre, petrol prices were fixed at Tk 130 a litre, a 51.16 percent jump, while octane prices rose 51.68 percent to Tk 135 on Friday.
Last November, the government raised the price of diesel and kerosene by Tk 15 to Tk 80 per litre.
Afterwards, coach fares rose nearly 27 percent, much higher than the corresponding jump in fuel prices.
Most of the fuel oil imported by Bangladesh is used in the transport sector.
FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, BUT THE ROADS ARE EMPTY-ISH
Shahriar Hasan is a working professional who was waiting for a bus at Kakoli bus stand in Banani to return home on Sunday afternoon. He said he had paid an additional fare on his way to work in the morning.
“I have been waiting here [at Kakoli bus stand] for a long time. I had to wait for hours to find a bus from my place in Mohammadpur in the morning. As soon as a bus comes, everyone waiting there like me rushed to find a spot on the bus,” he said.
Jannatul Ferdousi, a regular commuter between Dhaka’s Agargaon and Taltola, alleged that motorcyclists and car drivers providing ride-sharing services were charging steeper rates on Sunday, citing soaring costs of their operations due to massive fuel price hike.
“I usually use motorcycle-based ride-sharing services. But the couple of bikers I spoke to today asked for Tk 250, which is much more than regular charges. Then I came to the local bus stand, and eventually found one after waiting for ages. People were saying that numbers of buses on the road are way less than normal today,” she said.
Operator Alif Paribahan’s driver Solaiman, who identified himself by his first name, said the numbers of buses on Dhaka streets were half on Sunday than on any regular day by his estimation.
“Some operators didn’t run buses today [Sunday] just to avoid unnecessary hassle and haggling with passengers as the readjusted fare charts are yet to be made public. My operator [Alif Paribahan] wanted our buses to run. We are charging old fares. On occasions, we also asked passengers if they could pay a little extra as we were providing services at a loss. Some agreed, some didn’t,” he said.
Md Sohel Miah, a driver’s assistant for Balaka Paribahan, said half the buses of his route, from Sayedabad to Gazipur, did not operate on Sunday, fearing the staff of the buses may face serious pushback from passengers over new fares due to unavailability of the chart.
“No, thank you, I am not interested in getting beaten up by pissed-off passengers. They are already deeply frustrated over this. The readjusted fare charts are yet to be made public, and that’s why half the buses on my route didn’t run today [Sunday],” he said.
LONG-HAUL COACH OPERATORS UNHAPPY WITH READJUSTED FARES
The inter-district bus terminal in Mohakhali was found full of buses during a quick trip there in the afternoon, as most operators there said they are quite unhappy about the readjusted fares.
Md Dulal Miah, a driver of Asia Line which operates in Mohakhali-Fulbaria on the Mymensingh route, said each coach from his employer requires over Tk 9,000 worth of diesel now, compared with Tk 6,500 a day before. But Asia Line would not able to make a profit after covering the fuel charges even if they follow the readjusted fares.
“We expected the readjusted fares would be more. Nevertheless, the passengers were not even ready to pay this much either. Altercation’s been taking place since morning. Except for Ena Paribahan [one of the largest coach operators in Bangladesh], no one is making a profit with the readjusted fare prices. That’s why we decided not to operate coach service,” he said.
However, some owners denied the narrative. They said the number of coaches is less because they are getting fewer passengers.
Abdul Malek, general secretary of Mohakhali Inter-district Mohakhali Bus Owners Association, said: “Yes, the readjusted fare didn’t reflect the hike in fuel prices. But that’s not why the coaches are not operating. We just didn’t have enough passengers today, that’s it.”
A BRTA director, who did not want to reveal his identity as he was not authorised to speak to the media, told bdnews24.com that owner associations in Dhaka have already received the readjusted fare charts from BRTA.
“The rest will get it by tomorrow [Monday],” he said.