Saturday, April 23, 2011

The old local buses of the old city

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w

Revealed at al-Madinah

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate.
1. When Allah's succour and the triumph cometh
2. And thou seest mankind entering the religion of Allah in troops,
3. Then, hymn the praises of thy Lord and seek forgiveness of Him. Lo! He is ever ready to show mercy.

MELAKA is an old city. But new commercial areas such as Melaka Raya and Peringgit Jaya are now proud identities of the historical city.

In Peringgit Jaya some of largest shopping malls in the state such as Jusco and Tesco attract thousands of customers each day; many of them depend on the bus station in Melaka Sentral which is situated not far away from the stores, for their transportation needs.

In Melaka Sentral, there are two sections for buses. The operations of express buses (interstate) are on the left wing while the local buses are on the right wing. At the express bus section, including its parking bays, one would notice almost all the buses (perhaps about 50) are new and of the latest models including double-deckers, but at the local bus section, one would notice almost all of about 50 buses there are old and in dirty condition.

Recently Melaka Bus Operators demanded the state government to honor its pledge two years ago to give assistance amounting to RM36 million to upgrade their services including ceasing operations of very old buses.

The President of Melaka Bus Operators, Razali Endun, says the assistance was urgent as operations by local bus companies in Melaka Sentral are in a dire situation as they are facing acute financial problems.

He said while waiting for the state's assistance, operators are facing more trouble as the authorities such as the Road Transport Department (RTD) had compounded several of the old buses because they are not roadworthy.

Razali said he too had no idea how to renew permit for his buses next year as almost all of them are in dire condition. “Permits can only be renewed if the buses that are more than 15 years replaced by new ones or being upgraded,” he said.

About ten local bus operators that are facing financial problems are in dire state and could cease operations, resulting in 2,000 employees being laid off, Razali said.

Thus he hoped the state government would come to the rescue by honoring its pledge in helping local bus operators, if not they would cease operations resulting in difficulties for thousands of commuters who depended on public transport.

For a long time now the public have complained about the poor condition of the local buses in Melaka town and its outskirts, but until now the state government had not rectified it except itself investing heavily on its own Panorama bus service; the latest news that was it had spent about RM2.35 million to buy 10 new buses.

The sorry state of the local buses was commented by several commuters who had them posted in the internet. AlexMcca noted: “Melaka buses are erratic, old and run down. You will only need it to and from Sentral (Melaka Sentral) to town really. The historic center is smaller than Singapore China town area where you can easily cover on foot.”

Wikitravel said: “Several bus companies with mostly old and rickety buses operate the local bus network in the state. Travelers will not really need to use them unless they want to go to the airport, catch a train in Tampin or go for a swim in Pantai Kundor or Tanjung Bidara.”

Eatrojak wrote: “…the local bus (was) damn dirty and cramp, quite uncomfortable if you have long legs, and people smokes inside. But can try one time for experience; so cheap, can save money.”

Suangern noted: The lousy no air-conditioned local bus to Melaka Sentral is RM1 per person, forget it. Some more this local bus does not really pass through Jonker Street.”

For a very long time now the ordinary people of Melaka had to be satisfied with the services of the old and dirty old local buses. Perhaps old buses are suitable to portray Melaka as an old and historical city.

But don’t be confused; many of the old buses are owned and run by private limited companies which had sent a SOS to the state government for help as mentioned by Razali Endun, President of Melaka Bus Operators, but the state government too has its fleet of Panorama buses (almost all of them new) run by its subsidiary, PM Cultural & Tourism Sdn Bhd.

It was reported that the state had spent some RM2.35mil in purchasing 10 new 40-seater coaches from Scomi Engineering & Logistics Sdn Bhd for its Panorama bus service in a move to upgrade the public transportation system.

Melaka's top leaders said the move was to upgrade the public transportation system in state as a part of a RM36mil transportation package plan which the state is seeking from the Federal Government.

The money would be used as a revolving fund and a bank guarantee to enable local bus operators to obtain the necessary bank loans to replace some 206 old buses operating within the city as well as the Alor Gajah and Jasin districts. The funds would also be used to provide subsidies to bus operators to ensure services on social routes that are usually not covered, owing to low profitability.

Time is running fast; the RM36 million which was pledged by the state government is still unavailable to the local bus companies; thus the Melaka Bus Operators had to raise the matter. For the time being, local commuters in Melaka have to do with the old and dirty buses.

But, please do not feel bad; since Melaka is an old city, it is a great experience to have rides on those old buses. Perhaps Melaka residents are used to old things including buses since their city is an historic one.

To upgrade the local bus service in Melaka, the state government has to turn to the federal government for assistance amounting to RM36 million. In 2009, the Melaka state government’s debt to the federal government increased to RM587.3 million from RM441.76 million in 2008. So it is timely for the state government to check on its budget; it has to be prudent and thrift in it’s spending and projects.

For example, the state government kept on getting new buses for its Panorama bus service, but about the old ones including two old (1981) double-deckered London buses bought several years ago?

About five years ago, those old London buses were the talk in town and made leaders of the state proud; but where had they gone? Nowadays none could be seen operating in Melaka; perhaps they had been left idle away in garages.

The buses were imported from London Bus Export; each costs RM200,000. It is a sad episode indeed after spending some RM500,000 (including installing air conditioners amounting to RM56,000), the old buses had to be kept in garages or museums and not running on the Melaka road as initially planned.

So moral of the story; old buses are not suitable in old Melaka city, the people need new ones!


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