A fleet of 10 articulated buses is set to hit the streets in the capital next month to ease the city's chronic transport problem.
Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) is importing the fleet from India under an Indian line of credit. Another 40 buses will be brought in January, said sources in BRTC.
Ashok Leyland is supplying the buses -- single-deckers that are longer than other buses, yet manoeuvre easily on the roads.
Also known as bendy buses, these vehicles comprise two rigid sections but can bend in the middle. They are popular in many countries for their higher passenger capacity.
The articulated buses will ferry around 130 passengers per trip from early morning to late evening every day. The likely routes are Mirpur-Motijheel and Uttara-Motijheel, the BRTC sources added.
A new ticketing system, like that in Western countries, will also be introduced. Passengers will have to insert coins or notes into vending machines on the articulated buses to get their tickets. The doors will not open until the machine reads the ticket. The system is expected to help stop passengers travelling free.
Iftekhar Ahmed, chairman of IFAD Autos Ltd, the firm that has won the import contract of the buses and is the sole agent of Ashok Leyland, said, "A special feature of this bus is that it will have higher standing capacity [70 persons] than the seating [58 persons]."
Each bus would cost Tk 84 lakh, excluding taxes, he added.
Asked if the vehicles would have difficulty negotiating the city's already crowded roads, Iftekhar said the buses would ply the roads without any trouble, as their two carriages are flexible enough for making turns.
Talking to The Daily Star, Communications Secretary MAN Siddique said that recently the buses had been run on trial on some Indian roads similar to the major thoroughfares of Dhaka.
"We can now say that there will be no problem in operating articulated buses in Dhaka," he added.
The secretary also said a select group of drivers were being sent to Kolkata to learn how to drive and maintain the buses.
Due to their higher capacity, bendy buses are often used as part of bus rapid transit (BRT) schemes. However, the government's planned BRT scheme is still at a primary stage.
To meet the growing demand of passenger transport in the country, the government in 2010 decided to import around 1,000 buses from different countries.
The first lot of 275 single-deckers was imported from China in late 2010, followed by 255 single-deck buses from South Korea in 2011.
Recently, 290 double-deckers have been bought from Ashok Leyland.
Many of the double-deckers are now operating in Dhaka, Chittagong and some other districts.
IFAD Chairman Iftekhar Ahmed said 10 more double-deckers would arrive in mid-2013 as the Indian company is supposed to supply 300 buses.
Also in the pipeline is a fleet of 100 air-conditioned single-deckers. "Ashok Leyland will start supplying the vehicles in January and complete it by June," he mentioned.
The state-run BRTC has a fleet of 1,263 buses including 399 double-deckers. The company's strength will grow with the arrival of the new vehicles.