The recent hike in gasoline price in Kuwait has caused many car drivers, whether nationals or expatriates, to re-think about whether to continue using their private cars or seek alternative means of transportation. The sudden move by the government to increase gasoline prices has prompted many car drivers to also attempt to cut down on their expenditure on transport. Many are choosing the option of public transportation, as taxi rates increase and therefore, are not cost effective.
As seen in several developed countries, public transportation has played a key role in reducing traffic congestion and connecting different areas. And with the rise in fuel prices, many car drivers have resorted to public transport rather than using their own cars as a way to save money. However, they face many dilemmas from a weak transport system such as decrepit bus stops, fewer number of buses traveling certain routes, rude and distracted bus drivers and crowded buses.
In separate interviews with KUNA, a number of bus passengers, including nationals and expatriates agreed that they would prefer to use public transport to help in reducing the traffic congestions and to cut down on using their cars especially given the recent fuel price hike.
However, it was mentioned that they would feel more comfortable with services offered by the public transport if there were several upgrades including an increase of buses, shaded and air-conditioned bus stops, reasonable fares and a prompt service.
Mohammad Adnan, a Kuwaiti citizen, said that he does not mind using public transport if KPTC offered services that were on par with the international standards. He added that he used to take the bus before he got his driving license and enjoyed the ride, which saved him the trouble of dealing with traffic jams and the search for parking spaces. He wished the public transport in Kuwait could one day be better that those in neighboring GCC states as "Kuwait has the resources and potential to do so".
Nabil Naser, another Kuwaiti, said that he would prefer using public transport especially now as using the car is troublesome. He mentioned that he earns KD 200 per month as a university allowance which, with the fuel price hike, made his living situation a little harder. He added that he would for sure ride a bus on the condition it took him directly to the university and back home to try and save some money for his personal use.
Ali Ahmad, an expat from Egypt, told KUNA that he owns a car that he used to drive daily to work, but was shocked recently when fuel prices went up, a matter that made him decide to return to traveling by public transport just as he did a few years ago. He pointed out that some new destinations in Kuwait cannot be reached by public buses, a matter which makes the trip to work a "dilemma".
Saad Farhan, another expat from Yemen said that he is thinking of selling his car and use public transport as he cannot afford to pay for the new fuel prices due to a limited budget.
To present his perspective on public services, KUNA interviewed Executive Director for Transport Affairs in the Kuwait Public Transport Company (KPTC) Eng. Abdullah Saleh Naser, who called for coming up with legislations and laws that regulate the public transport sector in Kuwait similar to those in a number of GCC states and Europe.
Naser said that public transport in Kuwait is in dire need for state support for it to be able to carry out and provide better services for passengers. He expressed optimism that the Public Authority for Roads and Transportation would carry out its tasks to improve Kuwait transport network in all perspectives such as infrastructure, roads and bridges as well as lands that would eventually help in the development of public transport operations to best serve the country.
He highlighted that only minimal support goes to public transport in Kuwait whereas in other GCC countries the government subsidies the operation by around 70 percent of the total cost.
He also called for facilitating a comprehensive network for the public transport in Kuwait, in addition to having the concerned authorities including Ministry of Public Works, Kuwait Municipality and the Public Authority for Roads and Transportation work together for the best interest of this vital sector.
Asked whether the recent government decision to raise fuel prices had an impact on the people who use public transport instead of their private cars, Naser said the decision has had little effect on customers which is not noticeable due to the lack of having a complete public transport network that the country requires.
An enquiry into the company's plans to modernize its fleet to cut down on the usage of personal cars, Naser said that KPTC has always been concerned about its fleet and ensured they feature the latest specifications and technology that fit the infrastructure and environment in Kuwait. The official went on to add that fares of the KPTC's buses are very affordable compared to those in some neighboring GCC states, in addition to safety, saying that there had not been any human loss on its fleets since many years.
He went on to say that the company's buses had never stopped since it was founded whereas in neighboring countries the bus services had halted for some time due to a previous oil prices crisis in the eighties.
He added that the company is very keen on making sure that drivers of its buses adhere to all safety and traffic regulations, adding that violators will be punished. He concluded by saying that the company is eager to have its services compete with neighboring countries once the infrastructure and regulation are supporting public transport.
The Public Authority for Roads and Land transportation was established according to Law No. (115) of year 2014 and deals with transportation via land of commuters, goods, luggage and equipment, from one place to another with the various modes of transportation.
Kuwait Public Transport Company was established under an Amiri Decree No. (60) 1962. KPTC earned the international quality certificate of ISO 9001. Kuwait joined the bid in promoting public transportation back on Sept 20, 1962 with the establishment of the Kuwait Public Transport Company (KPTC), but despite that fact, the problem still exists. Despite all the issues, public transportation will continue to lure passengers amidst the current increase of fuel prices once modified.