Commuters forced to pay extra fare
Nahida Khanam, along with her seven-year-old son, came to a makeshift bus terminal at Karnaphuli Shah Amanat Bridge area in the port city on Wednesday afternoon. The plan was to go to her village home in Patiya upazila.
Waiting for around an hour, she found that not a single bus there was going to Patiya.
Like Nahida, several hundred Patiya-bound people were seen waiting under the scorching sun.
"Every day, we face the same situation, as a syndicate is creating an artificial crisis of buses to charge commuters more," said Rashed Hasan, a daily commuter.
"During the afternoons, the fare from Shah Amanat Bridge to Patiya goes from Tk 30 to Tk 50 even," said another commuter Tapos Sen.
This correspondent verified the claim after a visit to the terminal on Wednesday.
When a passenger asked why the fare is Tk 50 instead of Tk 30, the conductor replied, "It's direct service."
"We have to accept their unethical and illegal fare. They are sheltered by the transport association," said another passenger Abu Taher.
Contacted, Abdus Sattar Rony, general secretary of South Chattogram Passengers' Welfare Association, said, "As Patiya is the nearest upazila, many people who work in the port city commute to and from their village homes every day. Bus owners capitalise on this situation."
"The bus owners' association leaders are behind the passengers' sufferings," he added.
Contacted, Mobarak Hossain, general secretary of Chattagram-Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Sarak Paribahan Malik Group, denied the allegation.
"There is no scope to charge extra fare for any route," he said.
He said there is a crisis of vehicles on the route to Patiya, as only 73 buses ply the route, but the number of commuters is over 30,000.
According to Mobarok, a bus makes four trips a day; with 73 buses, 292 trips are made in total. One bus has to carry 102 passengers to meet the demand.
"Due to the shortage of transport, many city buses illegally make trips on this route whenever they get the chance. They might have charged extra fare from the passengers," he added.
This correspondent could not contact BRTA deputy director (Chattogram) Shafiquzzaman Bhuyan despite repeated attempts.