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Public transport: ‘Why focus on Klang Valley?’

 | May 28, 2011

Bus operators say government agencies not paying enough attention to improving transit systems in other states

PETALING JAYA: Efforts to improve public transport in the Klang Valley have left transit systems in many parts of the country in a state of woeful neglect.

Johor Bus Operators Association (JBOA) president G Suchdav said that government agencies were not focused enough over transit systems in other states.

“The government focuses a lot on the Klang Valley, (but) all the infrastructure is already here. They should look at the other states,” he said.

Suchdav said that Johorean bus operators suffered from additional problems in the face of rising costs.

One of these, he said, was the severe shortage of bus drivers, especially in Johor Baru. He added that many drivers preferred to ply their trade in neighbouring Singapore, where salaries and benefits were better.

“The cost of living in JB is high, and drivers are in demand. A driver in JB can get RM2,000 a month. But if he goes to Singapore, he can get SG$2,000 instead.”

“On top of that, he will also get additional benefits like free dental and healthcare. We can’t give them the same,” Suchdav said in frustration.

The JBOA president added that this caused Malaysians to cross the border and drive the buses there daily.

It is estimated that Singapore has almost 4,000 city buses in total, nearly half of that of Malaysia’s (9,000).

Negeri Sembilan Bus Operators Association president Hardev Singh Gill told FMT that many companies servicing routes there had been shut down.

He said that many of the routes heading to Nilai from the state were no longer in service.

CityLiner buses, he said, were still on the road in some parts of the state, but many of them were coming to a halt.

“CityLiner got the Menteri Besar’s support a few years ago for (route) permits. But new permits don’t necessarily mean new money,” Hardev said.

Eighty percent of CityLiner’s 29 routes then were the less profitable ‘social routes’, the NSBOA added.

‘KLites have economic power’

Bus routes are divided into ‘lucrative’ and ‘social’. ‘Lucrative’ ones usually ply busy city or town streets, while ‘social’ routes travel into villages or faraway housing areas.

As of today, eight of them have been shut down. It is expected that many more will fade away in the coming months.

Astronomically rising costs, lack of government help, multiple bus companies plying the same routes and other factors have forced many operators to close shop in recent years.

In addition to supporting infrastructure, Klang Valley residents also had greater economic power than many other Malaysians.

City folk also had more alternative means of getting around town, said Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association (PMBOA) president Mohamad Ashfar Ali.

“People in the Klang Valley have (greater) economic power, and they have alternative ways (of getting around).”

“But if you take away the buses in the rural areas, people there will suffer. Children can’t go to school, people can’t go to work or to the market,” he said.

Ashfar also said that it was unfair for people to assume that everyone could afford to buy motor vehicles, especially cars.

“Not everybody has a car, but they are forced to get one and spend so much of their salary to maintain them (just to get around),” he said.

He argued that if the government concentrated more on public transport, citizens wouldn’t have to spend so much money on their cars.

The Klang Valley is expected to see several transit-related infrastructure projects in the next few years.

These include the initially budgeted RM36.6 billion Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line and the RM7 billion LRT extensions.

Even with these developments, public transport in the Klang Valley has often been criticised as unreliable and inconvenient.

Both buses and KTM Komuter trains are subject to constant delays. LRT stations have also been slammed for not being strategically placed.


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