Drive to improve Bahrain's public transport
Manama, September 26, 2012
A major drive to get more commuters onto Bahrain’s public transport is underway as it emerged that less than one per cent of people used it.
With growing urban development in Bahrain, it is crucial to invest and overhaul the transport system immediately, said Transport Minister and Economic Development Board chief executive Kamal Ahmed.
"We have about 0.8 per cent of people using public buses in Bahrain and 99.2 per cent of people - which include around 52 per cent of expatriates - preferring to use private cars as their mode of transport," he said.
"Unfortunately, we have not invested in improving our public transport network, though we did quite well in constructing roads and highways.
"It is important to improve the public transport system as constant development may render the task difficult after another five years."
Ahmed was speaking during a luncheon yesterday, organised by the Bahrain-India Society. It was held at the Zahle Lebanese Restaurant, Gulf Hotel.
He conducted a talk on Opportunities in India, focusing on the transportation and communication industries, which was attended by top businessmen.
The minister compared Bahrain to Singapore, saying the Kingdom only had 35 public buses being used by several thousand passengers, while the southeast Asian city-state had 3,400 buses used by 67 per cent of its population.
"Our public bus network is the same as it was in 1980. We are deciding on viable options which could be metro or monorail project," he explained.
"If we spend around a million dollars now to revamp the public transport network, it will certainly save a lot of budget allocated for road works as more and more people will start using public transport.
"My concern is to invest in buses and proper bus stops to create a network that can connect key locations such as University of Bahrain, malls and labour camps."
Meanwhile, Ahmed commented on Gulf Air's millions of dinars worth of losses saying, "If we have a business model that cannot make profit, we should be transparent and show the figures in positive or negative.
"We need to change the model. In my opinion, as a regulator Bahrain needs its airline.”
"But sometimes we cannot afford to have losses of about BD200 million ($531.91 million), which can be used for several other purposes."
The minister also outlined plans for the expansion of the Bahrain International Airport (BIA). He said the facility was initially designed for four million travellers. "However, the figure has now soared to around nine million."
Our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News, reported on June 28 last year that Bahrain Airport Company (BAC) signed a deal with Dar Al Handasah, one of the world's largest engineering and design companies, to implement BIA's expansion project.
The BIA will undergo a major 10-year revamp under a massive development plan that will enable it to handle 13.5 million passengers annually.
It will have new check-in facilities, new baggage handling and make-up area and an expanded departures immigration hall. The airport will also have increased departures security facilities, a multi-storey car park, hotels, new offices, airline offices and lounges among other facilities. – TradeArabia News Service
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