Public bus services are an important part of any transport framework, providing an affordable way of getting around for those who cannot afford the cost of running a car.
As The National reported yesterday, the shortage of adequate bus services in Ras Al Khaimah is affecting the quality of life of many people in rural areas – half of RAK's population of 416,600 live outside of its towns.
The only bus route that runs from the south of the emirate to Al Shaam in the north, close to the Omani border, services a select cluster of towns, which means that would-be passengers often have to travel long distances by taxi just to access the network. They do so at a cost they can ill-afford: “If we come to the city from our accommodation, we have to cough up about Dh50,” said one frustrated commuter.
The commuters of the emirate deserve better. To improve the situation, more buses should be introduced on larger number of routes at a frequent, reliable schedule, seven days a week.
The argument against doing so is that it would not be cost-effective. If that is the case then the answer would surely be to introduce smaller vehicles or minibuses onto feeder routes to link up with the main network.
The cost of running and maintaining such vehicles would inevitably be lower and would certainly be an attractive proposition to small private-sector operators seeking to carve out a small slice of the public transport sector.
But more than that, a federal body overseeing the public transport network for the whole country would help iron out the flaws in the current system. There is also an imperative to do get organised now.
In the near future, Etihad Rail services will rumble through the expanses of the Western Region and up and down the country, delivering goods faster than is currently possible by road.
Those tracks will also soon link up with a broader international network requiring cooperation and oversight by several GCC states. It will also require planning: the sooner that the country starts thinking about its public transport system as a collection of integrated and connected assets, the better it will work for everyone.