Sajha Yatayat/File photo
KATHMANDU: The government is currently formulating guidelines for the safe usage adhering to social distancing norms to check the spread of COVID-19 in a bid to resume operations of public transport services.
The prolonged lockdown has been relaxed to some extent as government offices are open in full swing since last week, and quite a few private offices opened.
Private vehicles have been plying the streets as normal based on odd-even rules. Panicked, yet smashed by loans and other obligations, the public vehicle entrepreneurs, meanwhile, are waiting impatiently for their turn to operate the services.
However, they say they can not operate carrying only half passengers of its capacity as proposed by the government.
The Department of Transport Management has begun discussions with entrepreneurs to check and put vehicles in the ready positions as they remained in the garage for around three months.
Directer General of the Department Gogan Bahadur Hamal confirmed that the Ministry of Physical Planning and Infrastructure, Department of Transport Management, transport entrepreneurs and workers were in talks on the issue.
The Department initiated the first round of talks on June 7 making criteria to resume public transport services and on the same day, the Department and the Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNNTE) formed the joint committee in this regard.
“The possibility of further increase of the Coronavirus pandemic remains high if the public vehicles were not well managed, that’s why for the security criteria were made,” Hamal told Khabarhub.
“We have been working to manage it further,” he added.
The Federation, meanwhile, has made it clear that it cannot operate as per the government’s proposal. Yet, the government has made the preparations to run the public transportation services immediately.
“Although the government is said to be mulling over instructing us to run public transportation immediately, it is not possible to ply by carrying 50 percent passengers,” FNNTE General Secretary Saroj Sitaula told Khabarhub.
Sitaula said that there is a big challenge to the public transportation sector mainly the passenger carriers. He criticized the government for not putting the public service providers’ due priority.
Standards for operation
The Department has set some criteria to meet the standard for the operation during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
The first criterion is to make the vehicle clean and disinfect it daily. The one is, it should carry only 50 percent passengers of the vehicle’s capacity and both these would be monitored by the traffic police.
Not only this, but it should also take enough precaution to minimize the risk of transmission during or due to travel. For it, to minimize the risks of virus transmission the service provider has to encourage collecting fare through a digital system.
The passengers should keep distance while getting in and out of the vehicle.
According to the Department, the service providers should also measure the temperature of passengers with the thermal gun before letting them on the bus. In the meantime, the passengers must put on masks.
Similarly, the Ministry of Health and Population has also made public some criteria for the prevention and control of the pandemic on June 12. The notice issued to the public that day suggested to maintain a single line in a crisscross manner, manage sanitizer and wear mask compulsorily.
Despite being under stress to operate the service, entrepreneurs have put forth some conditions this time.
“There should be a guarantee of the health security of driver, co-driver, and passengers,” Sitaula said. “Since there will be no restriction to be onboard, and if they were transmitted with the COVID-19, who will guarantee it? Who will compensate for the loss the entrepreneurs have to bear while providing service with 50% passengers of their capacity?”
He added that it should be discussed before resuming the service and the criteria should be altered ensuring the safety and security of all.
He demanded the government to make a visionary policy so that the services could be ensured.