MUSCAT: More than 50 passengers on an Oman National Transport Company (ONTC) bus from Salalah to Muscat had to endure six hours of delay and a uncomfortable onward journey after the bus was impounded at Thumrait police station for undisclosed reasons.

They reached Muscat on Saturday noon on board a private bus, but not before enduring over 17 hours of inconvenience. The incident took place on Friday evening, a passenger who was on the bus told Muscat Daily, describing the experience similar to being “held hostage”.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the passenger said, “We started from Salalah at 6pm on Friday. At the police check point in Thumrait, ID cards of passengers were checked and the drivers called out. After 45 minutes of questioning the drivers, the bus was taken to the Thumrait police station.”

After some time, the passengers were taken to a nearby restaurant and asked to finish dinner within 30 minutes. “After that the bus was again taken to Thumrait police station and the investigation continued for over three hours. No one was allowed to get down. There were women and children among the passengers. No one was told what the problem was,” the passenger said.

Another passenger who called ONTC’s Salalah office to enquire was told there was a problem with the bus’s insurance papers or route permit. “I was told we need to wait and everything would be fine,” the passenger, also requesting anonymity, said. The delay coupled with no clear information behind it made the passengers furious.

“The ROP did not allow the bus to go further and we returned to Salalah, reaching at 10.45pm. We were offloaded and the company said there was no bus to Muscat for that day. Everyone was furious,” a passenger said. When the passengers insisted on an arrangement, ONTC collaborated with a private bus company. After six hours of delay, the passengers boarded this bus for Muscat.

However, they complained that ONTC did not fully reimburse the ticket fare. “The company refunded me RO4.5 per person instead of the RO6 per ticket that it should have. The journey to Muscat was uncomfortable as this bus was old and the air conditioning did not work. I was travelling with my family, and incurred a total loss of RO9. We were disappointed by the company’s attitude towards customers.”

The passengers reached Muscat on Saturday noon. A Thumrait police official on Sunday said that the bus was still with the police. “The registered case is yet to be clarified by the concerned authorities,” the official said. ONTC officials were not available for comment.