Muscat: “Don’t sleep or take rest in air-conditioned bus stops,” was the message Ahmed bin Ali Al Balushi, chief executive officer (CEO) of Mwasalat, delivered in view of the rebranded version of the Oman National Transport Company opening more and more air-conditioned bus stops in Oman.
“We will urge the people not to use the bus stops for eating, drinking, smoking and sleeping. People are even prohibited from using bus shelter walls as notice boards. Our maintenance teams will carry out daily cleaning of the bus shelters to alleviate bad odours and improve overall hygiene levels at bus-stop shelters,” Al Balushi said.
While two of the air-conditioned bus stops are complete and will be running soon on the Sultan Qaboos highway in Al Khuwair in the Muscat Governorate, the other one planned is next to Oman Avenues Mall for its passengers in Muscat.
A five-year agreement worth OMR150,000 was signed recently between Mwasalat and LuLu Hypermarkets LLC for naming rights for two new bus stops and one AC bus shelter in Muscat.
Mwasalat shall provide the naming rights for the two bus stops located at LuLu Hypermarket Darsait and LuLu Hypermarket Al Bander, in Mawaleh and the AC bus shelter next to Oman Avenues Mall.
In December 2016, Mwasalat had signed a similar agreement with Omantel to name two AC bus shelters—with the Omantel name—which featured air-conditioning facilities.
CEO Al Balushi further said the main aim is to encourage more and more people to use the bus services. “These bus stations will be a prototype and we need to see how it works as this will be a first in Oman. We don’t want it to be a resting area for people so right now we can’t say that these air-conditioned bus stations will come up all over Oman,” he added.
Mwasalat, the rebranded version of Oman National Transport Company, transported nearly 3.7 million passengers from January 1 to December 31, 2016.
Altogether Mwasalat operates 443 buses, which include 53 midi buses in Muscat, 43 intercity buses and 347 schools and university buses. Passengers using the Mwasalat buses are, however, very happy with the decision. “During summer the temperatures crosses 45 degrees in Oman. So it would be nice to wait for low floored air-conditioned buses in air conditioned bus shelters,” said an Indian expatriate, Rupak, who commutes daily from Ruwi to Seeb.
Passengers also said that right now there is no respite for hapless waiting passengers waiting to escape the intolerable heat and humidity of summer. “At the peak of summer, standing in the sun even for a minute is unbearable. So, right now in the absence of air-conditioned bus shelters, passengers are left without any choice and look for shaded areas, such as under trees or nearby buildings where there is no shaded bus stop,” another resident, Manoj said. Mwasalat plans to introduce 118 new public transport buses in 2017.
“We have a come a long way, since we started our operation. Now the people of Oman know that they will get a bus if they wait for 15 minutes from 6am in the morning to 9.30 at night. And therein lies our success. But a lot of things still need to be done to improve the public transportation system as we want to link every city in Oman,” CEO Al Balushi said.