Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The old local buses of the old city (Part 2)

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

"Do not spy on one another,
nor let any of you backbite others..." (Hujurat 49:12)

IN this blog previolusly I had highlighted the dire condition of Melaka stage buses entitled ‘The old local buses of the old city' and to my relief during his visit to my home state on Monday, 4th April, Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin had acknowledged the situation and mooted Melaka bus firms to set up a consortium to solve the problem.

“Public transport in the state, especially stage buses needs a major overhaul, and to do this, I propose that bus companies form a consortium,” Muhyiddin was quoted saying after spending about an hour meeting representatives from bus companies, bus drivers and taxi drivers’ association at Melaka Sentral bus and taxi terminals.

“When the consortium is formed by the 11 bus companies in the state, the government will set up a fund to help to replace the old buses. I noticed that most of the buses in the state are more than 10 years old.

“The government will then look into the best mechanism to replace the buses and this might include the setting up a fund to phase out the old buses in stages. A new bus would cost RM450,000 and we cannot afford to replace all the old buses in Melaka at one go as this would cost RM45 million,” said Muhyiddin.

Thanks to the DPM, Muhyiddin for his understanding and far sighted views for Melaka local bus companies and commuters, but ‘sympathy words and promises’ without the relevant authorities taking fast action is just like adding salt to one’s wound!

Sir, while you were pouring out your ideas, some of the poor ‘rakyat’ who have suffered so long could not just ‘cage’ their misery in their heart; thus they ‘rained’ it out at every opportunity; one such medium was newspapers ‘interactive columns.

On the very day of your visit to the historical state (4th July), I noticed three letters in the Interactive Page (page 52) of ‘Sinar Harian’ (a Malay daily) were complaints on dire state of the local bus service.

A reader (Malu anak negeri/ A shameful citizen) wrote: “Bus uzur masih beroperasi: Amat mengecewakan apabila bas MOS Melaka yang tidak sepatutnya digunakan lagi masih beroperasi. Hairan apabila bas yang uzur ini masih mendapat kelulusan pihak berwajib. Kami sebagai penumpang merasakan ia tidak setimpal dengan tambang. Tiada keselesaan apatah lagi aspek keselamatan. Melaka merupakan negeri pelancongan tetapi taraf pengangkutan awam amat mengecewakan.” /  “Old buses are still on the road: It is disappointing when old buses of MOS Melaka are still operating. I am puzzled as why these old buses are given green light by the authorities. We, as commuters feel the service is not worth the fare.  The service is without comfort and safety. Melaka is a tourism state (destination) but its public transportation is disappointed.”  *Note:  MOS stands for Malacca Omnibus Service.

A regular commuter (Buruh kecewa/ A disappointment labourer) wrote: “Bas tiada susahkan pengguna: Kami berharap pihak berwajib dapat membantu. Pada 29 Jun lalu, bas MOS Tangkak ke Jasin dari jam 8.45 hingga 11.15 pagi tidak tiba di stesen Tangkak. Kami pekerja yang menggunakan perkhidmatan bas tersebut terpaksa berhadapan masalah dengan majikan disebabkan hal ini. Mengapa tidak dimaklumkan awal-awal? Menyusahkan pengguna.” / “Cancelled bus service frustrated commuter: We hope the authorities would help us. On 29th June, MOS bus for route Tangkak-Jasin from 8.45 to 11.15 am, failed to reach the bus station in Tangkak. We, workers who depended on that bus service had to confront with our employer regarding this matter. Why do not inform earlier? Create trouble for commuters.”

The third reader (Pengguna/A Commuter) too noted about the MOS bus that failed to service the Tangkak-Jasin route on that specific time and date.  ‘Pengguna’ too complained that he/she had to face trouble to go to work.

Muhyiddin’s call on Malacca bus firms setting up a consortium and only then the government will set up a fund to help replace the old buses was nothing new; the urgent step the government especially the state government needed to do was to honor its pledge more than two years ago to give assistance amounting to RM36 million to members of Melaka Bus Operators.

Recently President of Melaka Bus Operators, Razali Endun who pressed the state government on the assistance, said the money was urgent as operations by local bus companies in Melaka Sentral are in a dire situation as they are facing acute financial problem.

He said while waiting for the state’s assistance, operators were 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 permits 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 are replaced by new ones or upgraded,” he said.

About 10 local bus operators that are facing financial problems are in dire straits and could cease operations, including in 2,000 employees being laid off, Razali said.

Thus he hope 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.

A former high ranking government officer told this writer, what Muhyiddin should do if he was really concerned and committed in solving Melaka local bus operators' and commuters' woes was not just by making suggestions and promises but ‘delivering’ money fast to the state government who at this stage had failed to secure the RM36 million loan from the federal government to ‘pay’ for the bus operators as it had promised more than two years ago.

“I could guess why that promise could not be fulfilled judging from the local authorities answers  to the ‘rakyat’ (people) grouses on why Melaka has not enough public utilities such as sheltered bus stops; they  would said they are still waiting for government’s allocation or sponsorship from private companies.

“What’s the heck the state government was doing? Melaka was declared a developed state last year; so the problem is that they don’t have the money. Why wait for government allocation or sponsorship just a built a bus shed?

"Just tell the truth, you don't have the money. That’s it.  For you information, in 2009, the Melaka state government’s debt to the federal government increased to RM587.3 million from RM441.76 million in 2008!”

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