Kathmandu Metropolitan City, the country’s capital and largest city, does not have a bus park for short- and medium-route buses for over six months now.
Earlier this year, during the Covid-19 lockdown in April, the City authorities had removed the ‘temporary bus park’ from the open air theatre at Tundikhel. It was five years ago that the “Old Bus Park” in the heart of Kathmandu was shifted to Tundikhel after the authorities decided to build a multi-storey Kathmandu View Tower at the site of the Old Bus Park. As per the initial plan, Tundikhel was to be used for just six months and by then the View Tower would be ready and the bus park was to be operated from the basement of the Tower. Five years on, the tower is still under construction.
Now over 600 buses operating on short- and medium-routes do not have a parking place. They have been picking and dropping passengers from various roadside stops causing inconvenience for thousands of commuters.
On the sidewalk just outside the western gate of Tundikhel, which used to be a bus park until six months ago, hundreds of people are to be seen waiting for buses to various destinations in and around Kathmandu Valley. They complained that buses are not easy to find especially for destinations on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
“It’s always been a hassle here ever since they removed the buspark,” said Indralaxmi Ghimire, 27, from Naya Bazar-9, in Banepa Municipality, which is around 20 kilometers from Kathmandu.
“It’s always problematic to get a bus, especially in the evening. If there was a buspark there would be buses in queue, but here they are not allowed to wait for long,” Ghimire, who works at a private firm and needs to commute to Kathmandu everyday, complained.
When the Post contacted Ishwar Man Dangol, spokesperson of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City and conveyed passenger complaints, he said the problems will be resolved only after the Kathmandu View Tower construction is complete. “Buses to places like Panauti, Sindupalchowk and Kavrepalanchowk that operated from Tundikhel are being operated from New Bus Park at Gongabu, but other short route buses do not have a permanent park and have been picking and dropping passengers from roadside bus stops.”
Not only the passengers, bus drivers are equally unhappy about the lack of a bus station City’s indifference to the problem. “How can we operate from the Gongabu bus park when most of our passengers are in downtown Kathmandu,” said Ravi Thapa, 47, a driver operating on the Kathmandu-Panauti route for the past 17 years.
“Due to the lack of a bus station, we have no place to rest or use the toilet and even drink water. Everything is messy, passengers are confused, but the authorities appear unconcerned about the problems,” said Thapa.
Deputy Mayor of Kathmandu, Hari Prabha Khadgi, meanwhile, blames Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya for the problems. “As elected representatives, we have just four months remaining in office. This is one of the biggest failures of Mayor Shakya. He could not even construct a proper bus park during his tenure,” said Khadgi, who represents the ruling Nepali Congress party. Mayor Shakya is from the main opposition CPN-UML.
Khadgi said that following complaints from bus operators and passengers, she along with other City officials recently visited the Kathmandu View Tower site to take stock of the construction work. And they found that it will take at least a year and a half for the construction to complete. This means until then the buses will have to operate as per the existing arrangements.
“This is a betrayal of people’s trust by the mayor,” she said
The View Tower is being built under build-own-operate-transfer contract by Jaleshwor Swachhanda Bkoi Builders Pvt Ltd. As per the original contract, the company was to complete the construction in five years, operate the property for thirty years and then hand it over to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City. But the contractor has already missed the construction deadline and managed to secure an extension of the contract, according to City officials.
Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor Khadgi shared that she has proposed operating a temporary bus station at Manohara in Kathmandu-Bhaktapur border for medium route buses serving Kathmandu Valley’s eastern parts and another bus station at Balkhu for buses serving the western parts of the Valley.