Mwasalat ferried 2.2-million passengers until the end of June, marking nearly a 50 per cent rise in the number of people using the service during the same period last year. This performance of carrying about 12,000 people on the average every day is a resounding vote of public confidence in the utility’s service efficiency. It is also a robust reply to those who doubted whether public transport will succeed in a place like Muscat. The first day of Eid Al Fitr saw 24,000 users hopping on to buses, showing overwhelming public acceptance of the service. A survey by the company shows that about 40 per cent of passengers are Omanis, which underscores the overwhelming acceptance of the services by the national population in Muscat and nearby areas. Removing that many cars from the roads must have had its impact on the city’s air quality. The government is already working on the regulations that will ensure further expansion of the nation’s public transportation. Minister of Transport and Communication HE Dr Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Futaisi said earlier this year that his ministry was in the process of working on a whole lot of new regulations that would ensure that the authority functioned effectively. The authority is expected to help develop the public transportation network further with trunk and feeder lines that will increase coverage. The public transportation strategy seeks to 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 in constant touch with the local requirements. The proposal for public-private partnership for operating the public transport systems will increase private citizens’ stake in nation building.
It is heartening to note that the services will enhance coverage of cities like Nizwa, Buraimi, Sur, Ibri and Khasab. More people will 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 top-class 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. The authorities have restated the government’s intent to promote 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. Global consultancies involved in formulating the plans obviously will help improve the efficiency of the operators. A more efficient network will cut down the costs and reduce the carbon footprint, though transportation is an energy intensive operation. The Sultanate’s relentless pursuit of greener technologies has catapulted it to the forefront of the climate fight. An integrated transportation network in which the road, rail and water transportation are integrated seamlessly will be the ultimate gift to the nation and the people.