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The Yellow Bus Bilkers: Ticketless Passengers

23.10.2007
Why have the yellow bus conductors disappeared? Why don’t drivers sell tickets? More generally, why was it so necessary to set up the ticket system if nobody utilizes them? The Human Rights Centre put these questions to Tbilisi Autobus, ltd.

Besik Natadze, the General Manager of Tbilisi Autobus, ltd., “couldn’t find logic in these questions” and was “interested why our journalists saw only the negative side of their achievements while positive changes are being made.” The HRC is not seeking to find shortcomings, but wants answers to questions all people who travel by bus ask. It’s our problem as well.

In fact, not a single driver offers bus tickets to passengers. Natadze told the HRC that a special department was created to control every bus and its driver. “If we discover that any driver will not sell tickets to the passengers we give him a warning or dismissal,” Natadze said. “The drivers are obliged to sell all tickets in accordance with the contract we have with them.”

Journalist: This summer you established the conductor service but then immediately abolished it.  What was the reason?

Besik Natadze: We examined how the conductor service would function, but finally we saw that it was not the right way to solve existing problems. This service caused additional expenses and we decided to implement a new mechanism of control. Before this can function, the drivers must comply.

Journalist: I have spoken with several drivers and they named different reasons. In particular, the conductors not executing their obligations and appropriating sums of money.

Besik Natadze:  There are approximately 1000 drivers serving in Tbilisi and each of them has his own opinion. So I cannot estimate their comments on the matter.

Journalist: The driver of bus 21 told me that this plan costs 56 GEL for each route, amounting to 280 GEL a day. What is this plan?

Besik Natadze: I don’t know what you are talking about. We don’t have any plan. Only tickets and registration documents exist.

Journalist: It is interesting, as tickets are not actually sold. How do you operate this strict registration?

Besik Natadze:  We have the Inner Control Service, which goes and checks every bus. From 6 o’clock until 12 o’ clock our workers control every bus. 380 buses go out daily. There is a great possibility that these buses would not be controlled every day, but they are all checked at some point.

Journalist: If you don’t check them daily then how effective is this control mechanism?
 
Besik Natadze:  When we discover that the driver isn’t selling tickets we then take appropriate actions and the driver in question is fired.

Journalist: If the drivers are under such control, why aren’t they afraid and why don’t they sell tickets?

Besik Natadze: Why don’t they have fear of thieves, robbers and murders?

Journalist: Are the drivers thieves or robbers?

Besik Natadze: Everyone who steals is thief.

Journalist: Then it turns out that all bus drivers are thieves. Many people have confirmed that drivers don’t offer them tickets.

Besik Natadze: Why you say so? You have mobile. When you see such incidents, can you phone in to our hotline?

Journalist: Where does the unregistered money go?

Besik Natadze: That is our own business. This is a private business producing its own business. I don’t receive any amount of money from the budget. We register every tetri (cent) paid by the population. But what it goes to will be of no interest to you. Why are you journalists interested in the activities of an LTD [private company]? It is none of your business.

The Human Rights Centre also talked with passengers about this issue.

Nana Merkviladze, 61 years old: “ The conductors give us tickets, but if I am in a hurry and going down from the back door I give my money to the driver and cannot manage to take the ticket. The driver doesn’t have any objection to this, either.”

Nugzar Kheladze: “What ticket? If they give it I will take it. In my opinion they have to change this system completely. Nobody in Georgia will ask for the ticket and any special apparatus should have been put in as it is in foreign countries. The main thing is that there has to be someone who will check passengers without tickets.”

Tina Shvelidze, 36 years old: “I always demand the ticket and after getting off the bus throw it in the dust. I ask for this ticket because I carry out my obligations as a citizen. If everyone asks himself or herself where all this money goes then they will demand tickets. Who knows how much money is hidden because of this.”

Anano Guncadze: When there were conductors they gave me a ticket, but they wouldn’t give change and while they were serving one person other people were going down without tickets. I have been traveling by bus for a month without taking tickets.”

The General Manager of Tbilisi Autobus, ltd., Natadze states that the collaborators of Controlling Service check all buses daily and each tetri is registered. The drivers admit that they are obliged to sell the tickets but in fact they don’t always do so. The drivers didn’t offer any comments about the Controlling Service.

The Human Rights Centre tried to speak to Beso Zhgenti, the Head of Urban Services at Tbilisi City Hall, but he refused an interview and demanded to be sent an official letter. The Human Rights Centre will continue working on this issue and will immediately offer readers news as more information is gained from the Transport Service.
  
                                                                                               

Nino Tarkhnishvili, Tbilisi

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