DoT plays fair with passengers

Cost of a journey on a bus will not rise even if fuel prices increase.

The price of a bus ticket will remain the same even if the cost of fuel is increased. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // Passengers will not be hit by higher fares when they travel on buses in the capital, despite the deregulation of fuel prices, the Department of Transport has said.

In August, the Government introduced a market-driven fuel price regime to remove fuel subsidies with the aim of lowering fuel consumption and helping the economy.

“The Department of Transport has no intention to raise the fares of public transport buses in Abu Dhabi emirate at the moment,” a DoT official said.

“The decision to deregulate fuel prices will encourage the different segments of society to use public transport, which will ease congestion on the roads and reduce pollution caused by carbon emissions.”

The bus fare within the city is Dh2. Fares to the suburbs start at Dh2, plus 5 fils for each kilometre. The intercity fare is Dh10 plus 10 fils per km.

“The DoT will focus its efforts at this stage to strengthen the infrastructure for the transport sector in the emirate,” the official said. “Public transport should be accessible, reliable, safe and comfortable.”

Syam Vidyadharan, 40, a document controller from India who regularly uses buses to get around the city, welcomed the news.

“I have a monthly pass which only costs Dh80,” he said. “An increase in bus fares will really affect low income people so we appreciate them for providing us a good and convenient service.”

Monthly passes are valid for unlimited travel.

“It’s good that they’re not going to increase the fares,” said Dubai resident Vishnu Anand, 25, an aeronautical engineer from India who is attending a careers fair in the capital. “The buses here are safe and comfortable and offer a cheaper alternative to taxis.”

Jennifer Sarmiento, 43, a purchasing manager from the Philippines, said she was impressed by ease of payment under the Hafilat automated payment system, but hoped authorities would instal more reloading machines around the city.

Coin boxes on buses were removed on October 11, and replaced by the Hafilat smart cards.

“I bought a Hafilat card two months ago and have been using the bus between Electra and Muroor more often,” she said.

“However, long queues from around the machine on Electra street force me to travel all the way to the main bus station to refill my card.”

Ticket offices in all major bus stations sell the cards. The transport department has also installed 48 ticket vending machines, 155 reloaders and 11 machines selling top-up cards in Abu Dhabi bus stations, shelters, customer care centres, shopping malls and hospitals.

Hafilat, Arabic for buses, was launched on March 15 to ensure a smooth, quick-fare collection and reduce congestion while getting on and off the bus. The system only allows passengers with cards to board, eliminating free rides.

The passenger must scan the card as they get on and off the bus and the fare, calculated automatically based on the journey distance, is deducted from it.

Abu Dhabi operates 568 buses across 124 routes. The number of passengers has increased from 3,000 a day in 2007 to more than 100,000 this year.

The price of petrol fell this month while diesel increased to Dh1.89 from Dh1.86 per litre. The majority of DoT buses run on diesel while the rest use compressed natural gas.

Fuel prices for November will be announced on Wednesday.

rruiz@thenational.ae