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In surprise reversal, transport office says it won’t hike fares

- Prahlad Rijal, Kathmandu

Jun 14, 2019-

Editor’s Note: Due to our press deadline, the news about transportation fare hike was not updated in our print edition today. We have posted an updated story below.

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Hours after the Department of Transport Management raised transportation fares, it reversed its decision citing that fare revision needed more deliberations.

The move from department officials came after Acting Prime Minister Ishwor Pokhrel ordered a halt to implementing the revised fares.

“We felt a need to carry out more study before reaching a concrete conclusion on the matter,” the department officials said issuing a statement late evening. “Hence, the new rates will not be effective until further notice.”

According to Department Spokesperson Tirtha Raj Khanal, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport had given its consent allowing the department to publish a notice with revised fares but a meeting of top ministry officials in the evening asked him to halt the revision.

“The decision was passed by the ministry earlier but I was asked to republish a halt notice a few hours after the department announced new fares,” said Khanal.

When asked about the lack of coordination between stakeholders and authorities, Khanal said that he does not know what happened at the ‘top level’.

Prior to rolling back its decision, the transport sector regulator had decided to hike the fares for public transportation by up to 20 percent without even holding proper discussion with stakeholders.

“There was no coordination between us and the department on implementing revised fares and the department did not seek suggestions from us too, not before implementing the rates and rolling back on the decision,” said Saroj Sitaula, general secretary of the Federation of Nepal National Transport Entrepreneurs. “The fares have not been revised as per the 65 percent price of component mechanism since the last four years, the government must revise it.”

In the latest fare revision which went unenforced, the department said it had put 35 percent weightage to fuel prices and 65 percent weightage to market prices of other components while calculating the transportation fares.

If implemented, short distance commuters would have to pay 12 percent more and long distance traveller would have bear the brunt of extra 20 percent in fare charges.

Commuters travelling on local routes in Kathmandu would have paid a minimum of Rs 17 for short commutes and a maximum rate of Rs 32 for commuting across a distance of more than 19 kilometres inside the Ring Road.

Earlier the department officials said that the fares had been reviewed in line with the department’s systematic fare adjustment after the last revision in 2012. However, the government in 2018, under pressure from the transport operators had increased the fares by 10 percent just before the Dashain festival.

Before backtracking on its decision, the department had also allowed 12 transportation companies to ply their vehicles in 16 different routes along and outside the Ring Road after 9 pm as night service and take higher charges for operating during night.

Also, the decision to hike fares and flag down rate of taxis from Rs14 to Rs 50 for the first kilometer has been halted.

Consumer rights activists had welcomed the decision to operate night service and new fare rates imposed on cabs saying that the revision was in line with rising prices. “Taxi fares had not been revised since 2012 while inflation has risen steadily during the review period,” said Prem Lal Maharjan, president of the National Consumers’ Forum. “The flat rate of Rs 50 for the first kilometre was justified in case of taxi service.”

 

Published: 14-06-2019 09:53

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