- The closure of various tourist spots, the decline in people's income and the fear of Covid-19 infections are the main reasons for the drop in the number of passengers.
- Amirul Islam, sales manager at Shohagh Paribahan, said, "We are now running 40%-45% of trips. Still, coaches have empty seats."
- Passenger launches are also suffering. Launch owners say many of them could not afford loans.
- But in the case of city buses, the situation is a bit better. They are getting a fairly good number of passengers. Trips are also getting to be almost like before.
Due to a lack of passengers, owners are struggling to run just 50% of public transports, which is allowed by the government since the withdrawal of a lockdown, in the capital and to various destinations of the country.
It is also becoming difficult for them to cover losses owing to a prolonged shutdown.
The closure of various tourist spots, the decline in people's income and fears of Covid-19 infection are the main reasons for the drop in the number of passengers.
"All tourist spots in the country are closed and there are fears of Covid among people. As a result, they are no longer interested in going out or going anywhere. People's income has gone down, they have less money and so they are not going anywhere except when they need to," said Safiullah, manager at Green Line Paribahan.
"Earlier we had 60-70 trips per day, but now it has come down to less than 20. Our income has declined to a point where we are unable to repay bank loans. However, the amount of interest has been mounting during the last one and a half years."
Amirul Islam, sales manager at Shohagh Paribahan, said, "We are now running 40%-45% of trips. Even then, coaches have empty seats."
It is now difficult to earn the amount of money that is spent on a trip, he added.
Md Ahsan Habib, a counter master at Mazar Road of Royal Paribahan, said, "Our vehicles run on three routes in the north. We used to run 18 trips every day. Now it is becoming difficult to run nine trips. We don't have enough passengers. Sometimes trips have to be cancelled due to a lack of passengers."
"We are in a dilemma. At first, there were very few passengers. On top of that, there is a lot of traffic congestion on the roads. Currently, it takes four to five hours for a bus to reach Gabtali just from Chandra. Usually, this route takes 1 to 2 hours," said Md Selim Reza, general manager at Nabil Paribahan.
"Our trips are also declining because of such congestion."
Passenger launch operators have also been in a predicament. In this regard, Senior Vice-President of Bangladesh Inland Waterways Passenger Carrier Association (BIWPCA) Badiuzzaman Badal, said, "We are incurring losses on every trip due to a lack of passengers. We wanted to increase the fare to cover the losses but the government did not allow us to do so. So now the number of trips has been reduced."
He said many owners have bank debts going up to such a level that it will be difficult for companies to repay the loans.
But in the case of city buses, the situation is slightly better. They are getting a fairly good number of passengers.
"I am getting passengers. But the crowd is not like before. I used to run two trips every day. I am still doing the same number of trips," said Md Rubel, a helper of Labbaik Paribahan on the Savar-Signboard line.
Md Kayyum, a driver of number "8" bus on the Gabtoli-Sadarghat route, said, "We used to run 6-8 trips every day. We are still doing the same number of trips. As the number of buses in the city is fewer, there is some pressure of passengers. But that is much less than before."
In this situation, both transport owners and workers are now demanding help from the government.
"No other path is open to us at the moment. The government is also not helping this sector," according to Khandaker Enayet Ullah, secretary general of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association.
He said many owners are now in trouble, especially those who own one or two buses and those who have joint ownership of buses. Those who have loans are not able to repay them.
"We had demanded that the government waive bank loan interest and road tax, but it did not do so," he added.
"If this situation continues, many will be forced to close their businesses. At the moment, the government needs to help bring the sector back to normal," said Enayet Ullah.
Transport workers are also in trouble due to a lack of income. Md Jamirul Huq Liton, advertising secretary of National Road Transport Motor Workers Federation, said, "Income is declining due to passenger decline. There are a lot of workers sitting idle because only half the number of vehicles is running. Due to a lack of income, owners are not able to cooperate. We are having a hard time. The cooperation of the government can save us from this situation."