The proposed Public Transport Regulatory Authority will undoubtedly help propel the nation to a new era in public transport efficiency. The new body will regulate the sector taking into account the interests of all stakeholders. Minister of Transport and Communication HE Dr Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Futaisi has said his ministry is in the process of working on a whole lot of new regulations that will ensure that the authority can function effectively. The authority will help develop a public transportation network with trunk and feeder lines that will increase transportation efficiency. The public transport strategy unveiled last week will ensure that the Sultanate benefits from international best practices. The ministry would be laying down policy guidelines for the implementation of the strategy. It is apt that regional municipalities will be handling the development of infrastructure as they are always in touch with the requirements on the ground. The proposal for public-private partnership for operating the public transport systems will increase private citizens’ stake in nation building. Implementing the strategy in two phases will help to evaluate the process at each stage and recalibrate the plan’s execution for better results. The comprehensive proposal includes introducing feeder bus services to connect to trunk routes that are already operational. It is heartening to note that the feeder routes will cover second rung cities like Nizwa, Buraimi, Sur, Ibri and Khasab. This will ensure that more people benefit from the public transport system. Bringing in poorly connected locations to the network will definitely yield a development dividend. The fact that the Council of Ministers has been closely following the formulation of the strategy and its implementation shows how serious the government is about improving the facilities for the public.
An important element of the public transport strategy is the proposed railway network. It will include the light rail in Muscat, the initial study for which is in progress. Futaisi has not ruled out private sector participation in building the infrastructure for the railway and this gives hope for early implementation of the project. The strategy envisages key role for Mwasalat the scope of whose operations will be further enlarged across the Sultanate, reaching more towns and villages. The extension of the transportation infrastructure to more areas would in effect take development to further areas. Global consultancies involved in formulating the plans obviously will help improve the efficiency of the operators. A more efficient network will definitely cut down the costs and reduce the carbon footprint, transportation being an energy intensive operation. The Sultanate has always been interested in greener technologies so that the nation can play meaningful role in the worsening climate fight. Connecting communities and making free movement of people and goods possible is the essence of development. An integrated transportation network in which road, rail and water transportation seamlessly meld will be the ultimate gift to the nation and the people. A government in touch with the nation’s pulse will always know what development priorities to pursue. Prioritising development will ensure better utilisation of the nation’s resources, especially in times of economic headwinds. But evolving a public transportation strategy, the Sultanate’s government sends a clear message about its development priorities.