BRTC buses lying idle at the Kallyanpur bus depot. The photo was taken on 13 September
Prothom Alo

Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) purchased 255 air conditioned and non-air conditioned buses from South Korean company Daewoo. The buses were supposed to be in service for at least 15 years. However, within only 10 years, five of the buses have been sold as scrap. Another 30 buses are about to be sold in the same manner.

The BRTC has invited tenders to sell 153 buses including the buses from Daewoo as scrap. Sources from BRTC said they have priced the buses at Tk 200,000 to 300,000 each based on the condition. However, the real price is much lower than what they set. The concerned officials think that each of the buses will be sold at Tk 100,000 to 150,000 at the most.

BRTC sources said these buses were purchased with a loan from Korea’s Economic Development Co-operation Fund. The price of each bus was between Tk 8 to 9 million (Tk 80 lakh to Tk 90 lakh) depending on the types. However, they have to sell these buses at a much lower prices now.

Sources from BRTC further said the loan was taken with a condition that the buses must be purchased from Korea. But many defects started appearing once the buses took to the road. By 2016, half of the buses became useless.

Seeking anonymity, an official of BRTC told Prothom Alo that each bus contains at least 20 important parts including the engine. Half of these parts are out of order now in most of the buses purchased from Daewoo.

Speaking to several BRTC officials and experts, this correspondent found some reasons behind the short durability of the buses. They said most of these buses have been purchased with loans from abroad. And buses have to be purchased from the countries giving the loans. As a result there is no scope of purchasing the buses at a competitive rate through tender. The allegation of importing low quality buses is also longstanding. Apart from that, lack of maintenance, faulty repairs and corruption in purchasing the buses is also responsible for the short durability.

BRTC chairman said like human beings, the buses also need care at different times. However, it hasn’t been done.

He said after taking charge, he has stressed this issue. Already some 100 useless buses have been repaired. The durability of the buses would increase in future.

In the sale process, BRTC first made a list of useless buses lying idle at the depots of BRTC which is called the beyond economic repair (BER) list. The buses which are considered not worth repair and operate are included on this list. A committee of BRTC gives the approval for the sale of non-reparable buses.

According to the figures of BRTC, the organisation decided to sell 287 buses as scrap in 2017. Of them, 187 buses were sold. Another 53 buses were added with the 100 unsold buses in June.

BRTC invited tenders for the sale of these 153 buses in August. The list includes2 buses purchased from Yangsi Transportation, China in 2011, 21 from China's Fao Company in 2006-07 fiscal, 69 from India's Tata Company purchased in between 2002 to 2007, and 18 double deckers and 11 minibuses purchased form India’s Ashok Leyland. Some of these buses have been lying in the depot for five to six years.

Meanwhile, BRTC has added 101 new buses to the “non-reparable” list. However, the decision to sell has not been made yet, the source of the company said. As of last August, the BRTC fleet had a total of 1,650 buses, excluding those for sale. Of these, 1,251 are in operation and 399 are out of service.

No accountability

Moazzem Hossain, a professor of civil engineering department at Bangladesh University of Science and Technology (BUET) and a public transport expert, told Prothom Alo, “It is necessary to know about the expenditure, profit and income from a bus. But I don’t think BRTC has such a system.”

He further said, “Owners in the private sectors operate their buses for a longer period after purchasing at a much lower rate than BRTC. It is necessary to know why BRTC cannot do the same, otherwise we will continue to invest money but won’t get any results.”