Road transport services resume across the country today after over two-month suspension due to Covid-19 outbreak with a whopping 60 percent increase in bus fares.
The road transport and bridges ministry yesterday issued a circular, raising bus fares on all routes.
The new rates will be valid only during the Covid-19 crisis and the previous rates will be reinstated once the crisis is over, it mentioned.
It also stated that bus operators have to carry passengers at half capacity and follow physical distancing guidelines. Besides, they will not carry any standing passengers.
Meanwhile, train and launch services resumed yesterday. The number of passengers leaving the capital was lower than that of the Dhaka-bound ones.
Train and launch fares remain unchanged.
Besides, Biman Bangladesh Airlines and two private airlines are set to resume flights on three domestic routes today.
The government had enforced a shutdown of most public and private offices as well as public transport from March 26 to contain the spread of Covid-19.
On May 28, the government announced that all offices would reopen and public transport services would resume on a limited scale on May 31, making it mandatory to follow the health safety guidelines.
NEW BUS FARES
At a meeting on Friday, stakeholders in the road transport sector decided that buses would carry passengers at half capacity when the services resume.
Transport owners demanded that bus fares be doubled.
A committee led by acting chairman of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority Yousub Ali Mollah on Saturday proposed an 80 percent hike in bus fares. The proposal drew huge criticism from various quarters saying this would deal a heavy blow to the already economically affected people.
Yesterday morning, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said the government would rationally adjust bus fares, considering people's present financial ability.
"An 80 percent hike [in bus fares] will put an extra burden on people," Quader said while speaking from his residence through video conference with officials of the Road Transport and Highways Division.
Hours later, the ministry issued the circular.
The government last adjusted the inter-district bus fares in May 2016 at Tk 1.42 a kilometre.
With the new hike, it will cost a passenger Tk 700 (excluding tolls) to travel from the capital's Gabtoli to Barishal through Faridpur. Before the shutdown, it would cost Tk 438.
Bus fares on routes inside the capital were last adjusted in September 2015 at Tk 1.70 per km.
Now, one has to pay Tk 53 instead of Tk 33 to travel to the Mirpur Zoo from Notre Dame College.
Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity and the Road Safety Foundation demanded that the government scrap the new bus fares.
In a statement, the Samity said the government has fallen into the trap of transport owners, and irrationally increased bus fares by 60 percent which will put an additional burden on people.
Passengers' interest was ignored while making this unilateral decision. This will increase passengers' sufferings and would cause anarchy over fares, read the statement signed by Samity Secretary General Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury.
Romesh Chandra Ghosh, chairman of Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners' Association, said he accepted the new fares as the government issued it considering people's financial hardship.
"But many of our owners are unwilling to run buses at this new rate. They want at least 80 percent increase. But I am trying to convince them. We will operate buses from tomorrow," Romesh, also managing director of Shyamoli Paribahan, told this correspondent last night.
Khondaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, said, "We have accepted the new fares considering passengers' interest and already started selling tickets."
He urged passengers to help them maintain health safety guidelines.
Talking to this newspaper last night, Amzad Hossain, spokesperson for state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation, said the BRTC would resume operation today and charge 60 percent more than the existing fare as per the government decision.
TRAIN, LAUNCH SERVICES RESUME
Yesterday, eight intercity trains were run on seven routes at half capacity.
Chapainawabganj-bound Banalata Express left the capital around 1:30pm with most of the passengers maintaining physical distancing.
Earlier in the morning, Subarna Express left Chattogram for the capital.
Eleven more intercity trains would resume operation on June 3.
Visiting Kamalapur Railway Station in the afternoon, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan expressed satisfaction over the safety measures taken by the authorities, and said they did not get any complaint.
Meanwhile, launch services to and from the capital resumed yesterday.
The first launch left Sadarghat terminal for Chandpur around 7:15am, said Alamgir Kabir, joint director of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority at the terminal.
"We have installed disinfectant tunnels, and all passengers have to go through those to enter the terminal. Besides, we are providing hand sanitizer and have also kept many seats empty to ensure social distancing," he mentioned.
Badiuzzaman Badal, senior vice-chairman of Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passenger carriers) Association, said the number of Dhaka-bound passengers was much higher than that of those leaving the capital.
Our Barishal Correspondent reports, many of the launch passengers were without masks and didn't maintain physical distancing.
In the morning, most of the tickets for three big Dhaka-bound launches at the Barishal terminal were already sold and people crowded their decks ignoring physical distancing.
DOMESTIC FIGHTS RESUME
National flag carrier Biman, Novoair and US-Bangla Airlines will operate 24 roundtrip flights a day on three domestic routes from today after over two-month suspension.
Of those, 11 will be run on Dhaka-Chattogram-Dhaka route, nine on Dhaka-Saidpur-Dhaka route and four on Dhaka-Sylhet-Dhaka route.
Biman and Novoair will operate seven flights each a day and US-Bangla Airlines 10 flights, said sources in the airlines.
Officials of the airlines said they had already taken all preparations to resume flights on the domestic routes in line with health safety guidelines prescribed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.
They also mentioned that aircraft would be disinfected before passengers board those.