1959: The Launch of the First Public Bus Service in Nepal

July 29, 1959

A pioneering public bus line in Nepal was inaugurated. This line was part of the operations of Nepal Transport Service. This company had started out only four months earlier as a trucking company that, via the Tribhuvan Highway, hauled cargo for a distance of 118.1 miles (190 kilometers) in each direction between the capital city of Kathmandu in central Nepal and the town of Amlekhganj in that South Asian country’s southeastern region (adjacent to the border with India). Nepal Transport Service was founded by the brothers Karuna Ratna Tuladhar(1920-2008) and Lupau Ratna Tuladhar (1918-1993). It was the former of those brothers who drove a crowded 32-seater coach for their company’s first bus run.

This trailblazing trip began in Kathmandu. “Eight hours later, [the bus] pulled into Amlekhganj in a cloud of dust,” journalist Kamal Ratna Tuladahr later recounted. “The passengers were hardly aware that they had made a historic trip, but Nepal’s first bus service was on the road, and it was to change the way Nepalis travelled.”

Following the successful completion of this trip, Nepal Transport Service established daily bus runs on the Tribhuvan Highway between Kathmandu and Amlekhganj. These trips originated in Kathmandu’s commercial district of Sundhara, with the buses exiting the Kathmandu Valley at the village of Thankot and then traveling over the Mahabharat Range to reach the city of Hetauda. From Hetauda, the Nepal Transport Service’s buses trundled over the mountain range known as the Sivalik Hills to get to Amelekhganj. It was at that town that passengers had the option of boarding the Nepal Government Railway’s trains to travel even further.

A couple of months after its inaugural bus trip, Nepal Transport Service achieved another transit milestone when it began regular runs between Kathmandu and nearby Lalitpur Metropolitan City (also called Patan). This route marked the start of regular transit exclusively between cities in Nepal. Along with operating that line between Kathmandu and Lalitpur Metropolitan City, Nepal Transport Service eventually initiated bus routes for other places likewise located in the Kathmandu Valley.   

At its height, Nepal Transport Service owned and operated a fleet of 11 vehicles altogether for bus trips: five Tata Mercedes-Benz LP 312/36 buses that had been built by Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company in India; four Bedford SB4 buses manufactured by Hindustan Motors in India; two Chevrolet Viking buses that were also built by Hindustan Motors; and two Tata Mercedes-Benz trucks. (The above photo of one of Nepal Transport Service’s Chevrolet Viking buses was taken in 1961.) The buses and trucks used by Nepal Transport Service were dark blue, with each vehicle displaying the company’s name in both Devanagari (a writing system widely adopted in Nepal) and English.

Nepal Transport Service ceased operations in 1966, in large part because of the increasingly steep expenses involved in maintaining and repairing its vehicles. Despite its relatively short existence, this company continues to be remembered as a key part of Nepal’s transportation history. In 2012, for example, the country’s postal services department issued a commemorative stamp featuring portraits of Nepal Transport Service founders Karuna Ratna Tuladhar and Lupau Ratna Tuladhar. This stamp also includes an image of a Chevrolet Viking bus.

Photo Credit: Pushpa Tuladhar, Tuladhar Family Collection (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepal_Transport_Service)

For more information on Nepal Transport Service, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepal_Transport_Service

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