KATHMANDU: When Rajesh Khetan, 55, reached Gongabu Bus Park before the crack of dawn, he was surprised to see a serpentine queue at the ticket counter. The seven-hour subsequent wait before his turn arrived would probably have been worth it for the permanent resident of Bhairahawa of Rupandehi district, except that he was told all the tickets to his hometown had already been booked.
“Even though it was raining, I got here at 3:00am. At 10:00am when my turn finally came I was unable to get a single ticket,” he told THT. He wanted to book two tickets for himself and his wife.
Krishna Chaudhary, 35, who was in queue to get two bus tickets for Dhangadi in Kailali district also reported facing the same problem. “Having learnt a bitter lesson last year, I had arrived here at 3:30am. But it was no different this year as well,” Chaudhary complained.
After weeks-long negotiation with government agencies, Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs finally opened booking of bus tickets for Dashain today. Surprisingly though, a large number of people who visited counters today said they were told tickets had been sold out.
While FNNTE General Secretary Saroj Sitoula claimed that passengers should have got bus tickets comparatively easily this year, chaotic scene at Gongabu Bus Park — from where most of the outbound buses depart from the Valley — hinted otherwise. “There may be a few cases of people not getting tickets, but such numbers are negligible,” he asserted.
Most ticket booking counters opened at 6:00am and closed at 10:00am as is the routine.
Service resumed after 2:00pm today, according to Sanjay Parajuli, representative of ticket booking counter of Swargadwari Yatayat.
Service-seekers, however, said transporters should have kept counters open throughout the day, in view of the large number of people wanting to book tickets.
According to Assistant Sub-inspector Lila Bhattarai, who was deployed at Gongabu Bus Park, no one registered any complaint today. “The DoTM has published transportation fares to all destinations, so that people can easily cross-check that they are not being overcharged,” she said referring to the Department of Transport Management by its abbreviation.
The DoTM had also announced that anyone facing difficulties in getting tickets could lodge complaints with the department itself. However, DoTM officials could not be reached for comment today despite repeated attempts.
According to Sitoula, three to four million people are expected to leave Kathmandu Valley to celebrate the festival this year. He said ticket booking for medium routes would be opened in the next few days and that bus tickets could be booked from Gongabu Bus Park, Kalanki, Sundhara, Purano Bus Park, Chabahil, Gaushala and Koteshwor.
FNNTE was not ready to open booking of bus tickets until its demands were met. The two sides finally forged consensus after DoTM relented on letting transporters instal top-carriage on passenger vehicles and provided assurance that it would evaluate transport fares after festivals.
– By Sabin Mishra for THT