Wednesday, June 19, 2024

1,000 taxis to hit city roads

Saber Chy’s company given licence
The communications ministry has given licence to Karnaphuli Works Ltd, owned by Awami League lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury, to operate a thousand new taxicabs in the capital and its adjacent districts.
Equipped with a minimum of 1500cc (1.5 litres) engines and air-conditioning, the vehicles to be imported from Japan are expected to roll onto the city streets anytime soon.
Abdul Mannan, secretary to the firm’s Managing Director Saber Hossain Chowdhury, said the company obtained the licence on September 24 and is now working to procure taxicabs and put them into operation.
“We plan to import the taxicabs at one go,” said Mannan.
He said the final decision on import of the vehicles will be made in a meeting after the managing director returns home from abroad.
The licence had been issued as part of a revised policy to register 6,740 new taxis in the capital to ensure smooth cab services for commuters.
According to the Taxicab Services Policy Guideline 1998, at least 11,260 taxicabs had been registered with Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA). Of those, nearly 2,000 are operational while the rest were discarded for failure to meet standard fitness requirements, said taxicab owners.
Of the registered cabs, 4,513 are equipped with air-conditioning and the rest 6,747 are non-AC.
Most taxis are in a bad shape putting the cab service in the city on the verge of a collapse. Cab owners put it down to the import of low quality vehicles from India.
They also blamed unskilled drivers for the sorry state of the service.
In a move to streamline the transport sector, the BRTA issued a circular in March stipulating that any company seeking licence to operate cabs must have a fleet of at least 1,000 taxis with a minimum engine capacity of 1500cc each.
The move was an aberration in the usual practice, where a company with a fleet of 20 taxicabs had been permitted to run the business.
The BRTA circular said once a company obtains licence, it will not be able to lease out taxis, and has to have wireless phone service in all its taxis and own parking space for at least 1,000 taxies at a time.
The company also needs to have a minimum paid-up capital of Tk 2.5 crore to import the vehicles. Earlier, the amount was only Tk 10 lakh.
“Our main objective is to restore discipline in the sector and ensure safe and smooth public transport service in big cities,” said a top BRTA official preferring anonymity.
SR Khan, president of Association of Taxicab Owners of Bangladesh, said some big cab companies such as Navana, Anudip, Cab-ex and Sarika that started business with nearly 1,000 cabs, could have put up a better performance, had they got necessary support from the government.
He said despite having necessary infrastructure in place, none of the companies is in a position to import new taxies for Bangladesh Bank’s delay in the implementation of a government decision on waiving bank interests.
He said taxicab business was dealt a heavy blow only one year into its start, as the government put a restriction on import of three year-old cabs from Japan through a change in the rules. A substantial increase in duty and value-added tax also contributed to the slump in business.
The move prompted businessmen to import low quality vehicles from India. These vehicles got damaged in a year, partly because of mishandling of inexperienced drivers.
He said once bank interests are waived, the companies would be able to import new taxis to replace the old ones.

-With The Daily Star input

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