Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bus fares: Which is the ‘fairest’ of them all?

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


The Declining Day (Al-'Asr)
1. By the declining day,
2. Lo! Man is in a state of loss,
3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort
one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance.

ONLY recently did I discover that express bus fares vary from one company to another although the route the companies take is the same.

For instance for the Kuala Lumpur-Melaka route that I often use, the highest fare is that of Transnasional at RM12.50 while the cheapest is offered by Delima Ekspres at only RM9.00.

Between the highest and lowest; the Mayang Sari fare is at RM10, Metro charges RM9.20 and KK-KL is RM12.20. I have not tried Jebat and a few other bus companies, so I did not know their fares. I too did not know whether this activity (competing to have the lowest fare) is legal or not.

From my experience traveling almost daily on the Melaka-Kuala Lumpur-Melaka route, express buses are only full during weekends and public holidays; on weekdays they are 'dry' of passengers especially in the middle of the month until the end of the month when the public's spending power is at its lowest.

A few days ago, on the morning journey from Melaka to Alor Gajah I was the only passenger in the bus; luckily at that small town it picked up three more passengers; so there was only the four of us during the one hour journey from Alor Gajah to Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, Integrated Southern Terminal (TBS) in Bandar Tasik Selatan. Imagine there were only five souls (including the driver) in the whole big bus!

Once I asked a bus driver why the fares varied; to which he answered bus companies are now fighting to get passengers and this meant survival of the firm they were working with. When I asked him if his company was making a big profit; he shook his head and said: "If the owner concentrates only on running the buses, his business would have folded up a long time ago. Luckily, this company also runs other businesses."

If express bus operators are 'shaky' in the businesses; what could be said about stage bus operators? Reports from all over the country note that several bus companies especially serving in rural areas resolve their woes by cutting services; angering the man on the street.

Last month, thousands of commuters in Seremban were stranded when a consortium stopped serving a dozen routes, mostly in the outskirts.

Kampung folks have been complaining that buses that ply their route were not turning up as usual and it was normal for them to wait for two or three hours for the bus. Bus commuters who are depended to the bus service to their workplace time after time are frustrated; their woes were not treated with respect by the authorities concerned.

If leaders could boast in spending billions and billions of ringgit to upgrade the public transportation system in the city including setting up a new MRT line, what about the needs of the poor rakyat living in rural areas such as on the Jasin (Melaka) and Tangkak (Johor) road.

Recently a commuter has this to say: "We hope the authorities would help us. On 29th June, MOS bus for route Tangkak-Jasin from 8.45 am to 11.15 am, failed to picked up passengers. We, workers who depended on that bus service had to confront with our employer regarding this matter. Why do not inform earlier? Why create trouble for commuters?"

Recently a news report said that Cityliner which is owned by Konsortium Transnasional had stopped 21 of its 25 routes in Kuala Selangor, including villages around Klang, Banting and Shah Alam. Areas affected include Pandamaran, Kampung Delek and Taman Seri Sentosa. About 60,000 to 80,000 passengers were disrupted; they had to find other means of transportation.

Those at helm of the company said revenue from fares could not sustain stage buses as costs had gone up, but fares had not increased in tandem. To overcome this serious situation which affect the poor rakyat, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) is scrambling to get bus service operators such as ‘bas sekolah’ (school buses) and ‘bas kilang’ (factory buses) to service the routes left vacant. About 3,000 buses are needed ‘to fill in the gap’ left by Cityliner in Selangor.

SPAD chairman, Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, in blaming the fiasco in Selangor to the state government refusal in assisting Cityliner in their economic woes, claimed his side would not stand in the way of any initiative that would benefit the public.

Tan Sri, why only blame the Selangor state government; the bus service in other states such as Negeri Sembilan and Pahang was also affected, they were in dire situation; so why not look at a broader scope because bus operators throughout the country are facing difficulties at this hard time.

Regarding the woes of bus operators of not being able to sustain businesses what’s more obtaining profit, I talked over the phone with Deputy President of Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association (PMBOA), Razali Endun who admitted it is not only ‘a Selangor problem’ but were faced by almost all of its members all over the country.

He said his side is working out for a solution including pressing SPAD to provide aid to bus operators based on a pay of RM1-per-kilometre formula but response from the government was not very encouraging. A meeting with Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najb Razak scheduled in October was also postponed.

PMBOA President, Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali in a local daily was reported saying: “We have been asking for help for more than a year now, but there has not been much response. The Melaka government has bought up all stage bus operators in the state, but the federal government is slow in responding.”

Razali who is also President of Melaka Bus Operators, clarified that the Melaka government had only suggested that a fund of RM5.4 million (the money forked out from the municipal council in the state) to assist the bus operators in the state.

“It was only an idea, nothing had already been put on ground,” said Razali. He also said the state government failed to secure a RM36 million loan from the federal government to ‘pay’ for the bus operators as it had promised more than two years ago in upgrading public transportation in the state.

Nevertheless Razali urged the state government to honour it promise in giving assistance to local bus companies, saying the money was urgent as operations by local bus companies in Melaka 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.

So, to SPAD and Tan Sri Syed Hamid, don’t just look at the public woes in Selangor; but please act fast in other states too especially in Negeri Sembilan and Pahang where thousands of commuters are stranded when the buses they wait for, fail to turn up!


allenhash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
allenhash said...

Just found out yesterday that the bus-fare differs even in the same company for the same route! Example: Bus-fare for LCCT- Pudu Central is RM8, whereas Pudu Central- LCCT is RM12! (operated by the same company!)