Public transport reform plan proposed. Comprehensive approach to be presented to Council of Ministers

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport has launched a plan to reform the public transport system.

The plan was prepared by the Confederation of Public Drivers and Transport Unions in collaboration with donor organizations.

Bassam Tleis, Chairman of the Confederation, said: "The Minister of Public Works Youssef Fenianos promised us that the plan will be on the agenda of the upcoming Cabinet meeting."

The plan is made of three levels: The first requires the approval of ministries, the second the approval of the Cabinet, and the third the Parliament.

The first level includes organizing the profession of public transport and developing the sector's performance. This requires the removal of fake public transport license plates and the prevention of illegal competition. It also includes the development of a national database of legal drivers.

The first level also requires the conducting of a study to set traffic routes that public transport vehicles should operate on. A tender should be held and a company awarded to operate these routes. A Bus Rapid Transport System is part of the first level. However, the World Bank is already preparing a study on a rapid public transport system serving the Jounieh-Beirut axis.

The second level involves approving a land transport policy. The policy should provide affordable transport for the largest number of people, and diversify transport systems. The policy should also incentivize the private sector to invest in transport.

The second level calls for restructuring the Higher Council for Transport and reactivating railways. Private vehicle parking spaces should also be reorganized. New bus stations should be created and operated at the entrances of Beirut and other major cities.

The third level includes establishing a public authority for land transport, an independent body that organizes and monitors the sector. The plan calls for providing a number of incentives such as exempting public transport vehicles from custom fees and registration fees. Incentives also include installing GPS on vehicles and providing subsidized loans.

According to Tleis, there are 4,000 officially registered vans. "In reality, there are around 15,000 operational vans," he said. There are 34,000 sedan-sized public transport vehicles, and 2,600 buses.