Dashain passengers demand online ticket booking service. Transport operators tell them to wait until next festival seasonNaya Bus Park counters sell around 33,000 tickets in three days.
Bus ticket booking for this year’s Dashain festival opened on Sunday. And, as always, thousands of people flocked to their nearest bus ticket counters to book their tickets.
Hundreds of people stood in meandering queues at Naya Bus Park in Gongabu to get their hands on bus tickets from day one. Similar scenes were witnessed outside the ticket counters in other parts of Kathmandu Valley.
Bus ticket counters were overwhelmed with people on Monday and Tuesday as well. As of Tuesday evening, nearly 33,000 people had booked their bus tickets from the counters at Naya Bus Park, according to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Circle in Gongabu.
The ticket booking queues at Naya Bus Park start from early morning and the streams of people only grow longer—and impatient—as the day wears on, said Police Inspector Munendra Thapa, the in charge of the traffic police circle.
“Police personnel are facing difficulty controlling the crowd,” he said.
Many people queuing outside the ticket counters at the bus park complained about why the transport service operators and the Department of Transport Management were making them stand in long lines to book bus tickets, instead of making tickets available online.
“I could have booked the tickets from my home if there was an online booking system in place,” Rose Dahal told the Post.
The 37-year-old stood in line for nearly five hours at one of the many ticket counters in Naya Bus Park to book three bus tickets to her hometown in Jhapa.
“This is the age of the internet. Why aren’t our transport operators and the government starting online booking service?”Dahal is right to complain, given that 65.87 percent of the country’s population has broadband access, according to Nepal Telecommunications Authority.
When the Post contacted Gogan Bahadur Hamal, the director-general at the Department of Transport Management, and asked why online ticket booking service was not introduced yet, he said his office was planning to start the service from next year.
“The government has come up with a new rule for online ticketing service. We could not start the service from this year, but we hope to see the online ticket booking system to be in place before next Dashain,” Hamal said.
When told about the trouble faced by the public while waiting for hours on end to book bus tickets, Hamal said the people were panicking for no
“We have been telling the public, time and again, that there are adequate tickets available, but they are not satisfied. We, Nepalis, have this habit of standing in long queues. There are enough tickets available and the people need not worry about being able to get home for the festival,” he said.
Although there are some private online payment platforms that offer bus ticket booking service, they are allowed to sell only a limited number of seats, and that too of only their partner bus service companies, which is very few to accommodate the number of passengers leaving Kathmandu Valley for Dashain. These companies say online bus ticket booking service has not gained traction in the country because of the transport syndicate.
“The situation is so severe that even though we are willing to provide online ticket service, bus companies do not want to give us the opportunity because of the syndicate through which they can make a profit by bumping up ticket price and creating an artificial shortage,” said Mohan Belbashi, supervisor of BusSewa.com. “We do not own our buses; we only sell tickets. What can we do when we don’t get seats from bus operators?”
eSewa, a popular online payment service provider, also holds a similar opinion as that of BusSewa: it gets a limited number of tickets from bus companies to sell online.
“If the government worked as a facilitator between us and transport operators, we can supply tickets to hundreds of people in a single day,” Roshan Lamichhane, chief operating officer of eSewa, told the Post. Other companies like IME Pay and Prabhu Pay also provides online ticket booking service, and again, they deal a limited number of seats because they are not getting enough support from transport operators. Ishwor Kaphle, the manager of Smile Car Rental, which runs a tourist bus service to Pokhara, has observed that online ticket booking service has failed to succeed only in bus companies that deal with Nepali passengers.
It’s a different story when it comes to tourist buses, which also cater to Nepali passengers. Tourist buses that travel to destinations such as Pokhara, Lumbini and Chitwan have long been selling tickets online to both foreigners and Nepalis.“In fact, in the past two years, over 60 percent of the tickets for our bus service were booked online and majority of them by Nepali passengers,” Kaphle told the Post.
“If only local bus operators are honest and provide better services for customers, they do not need to open different counters, they can supply tickets from a single room creating less convenience to commoners.”
He further blamed the government and transport stakeholders for their inability to go through the online ticketing system even in the 21st century.
Yogendra Karmacharya, president of Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs, said the federation was working to implement the online booking service from next year.
“We are still reforming the ticket selling process. From this year, we made it mandatory for ticket sellers to wear uniforms and carry identity cards. Next year, we will launch online booking service,” he said.