Bus companies have expressed concern about the upcoming influx of new taxis on the city’s roads and called on the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) to put rules in place to ensure that the new yellow cabs don’t take passengers off them like rickshaws have.
A total of 1,625 taxis are to be given at subsidised cost to applicants to the Yellow Cab scheme in Lahore in an upcoming auction. Officials of bus companies are calling for regulations restricting the number of fares (by destination) a taxi can pick up at any one time. They said that rickshaws had already hurt their business by running virtual bus services and they feared that taxis would do the same.
The head of the LTC dismissed the bus companies’ concerns as unfounded and called on them to improve their services.
Bus companies have long been asking the LTC to prevent motorcycle rickshaws from operating on bus routes, as they tended to pick up passengers at bus stops. The rickshaws offer passengers going to different destinations a group rate so that it became cost competitive with bus fares. The transporters say they are losing Rs6,000 per route per day. The LTC and traffic police did make an effort to crack down on rickshaws operating ‘illegally’ a while ago, but backed down after the rickshaw drivers staged protests.
The LTC must put rules in place to ensure that the cabs don’t start disturbing bus operations, said Maqsoodul Haq, the general manager of First Bus Service. “If these cabs adopt the same practice as rickshaws we will apply to the LTC to take action against them,” he said. “I don’t know if they will listen to us. They haven’t done anything to clear our routes of other transport despite repeated requests.”
Haq said that the company was losing money on its buses. “We can’t afford it any more,” he said. “If the LTC wants us to expand our operations it needs to stop these other forms of transport.”
LTC Chairman Khawaja Hassaan said the influx of the new cabs would make no difference to the buses. He said that the reason rickshaws were so popular was that the buses were infrequent, unreliable and uncomfortable.
“It’s the fault of the bus owners. If they ran a good number of quality buses on their routes then no one would prefer other modes of transport. The buses are dilapidated and the passengers don’t know when they will arrive, so why should they wait around for them?”
Hassaan said that the best way to get rickshaws off the road was to starve them of fares by offering superior bus services to passengers.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.