Consumer group slams government plan to replace feeder buses with Grab

Reuters pic.

PETALING JAYA: A consumers association has hit out at the government’s announcement that homegrown e-hailing company Grab may soon provide transport services for commuters at MRT stations.

The Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, Selangor (Cassa) said it was counter-intuitive of the federal government to come up with such statements without consulting stakeholders and consumers.

Its president Jacob George said the plan to have Grab replace feeder buses, in particular, was “half-cooked”.

“I have repeatedly advised the federal government to meet with stakeholders and consumers to see if their ideas are viable before coming up with what we consumers call ‘syok sendiri’ statements,” he told FMT, referring to the announcement by the finance minister’s political secretary, Tony Pua.

Pua was quoted by Malaysiakini as saying Putrajaya was looking into pursuing public-private partnerships in government projects, especially those involving infrastructure and public transport expenditure, to manage its fiscal deficit and large debt.

“Why should you provide feeder buses if you can work with Grab? They can actually arrive and give door-to-door delivery from the MRT to commuters’ homes at a reasonable price, and at a cost that will be cheaper than us (the government) supplying feeder buses,” Pua said in the report.

However, Jacob said it was not justifiable to only consider costs when introducing or removing public policy decisions like feeder buses for MRT passengers.

He also questioned if the finance ministry had considered the logistics and implications of using Grab cars instead.

“We’re talking about mass transportation here, not just getting a single person from point A to point B. This is a massive decision to consider. How many Grab cars will the government be using? Has Grab been asked if they will provide the service? Have they done the math?

“At present, we have means to facilitate transport for MRT passengers. Of course, feeder buses can be better in terms of service, but why not work on that instead of replacing the fleet entirely?

“What about the traffic jams we’ll have with all the extra cars on the road? Did you consider that?

“People like Tony Pua need not be so idealistic. Instead, they should set their feet in the real world. We on the ground who don’t live in ivory towers and stand on high pedestals know what it’s really like, and we know this won’t work.”

He also warned that the government risked becoming out of touch if it did not take into consideration input from the grassroots before making such calls.

He urged the government to put a halt to the plan, asking how different Pakatan Harapan was from “the previous tenants in Putrajaya” if it did not consider the views of stakeholders.

“Your whole manifesto was about consulting and listening to us, remember?”

Pua, the Damansara MP, was quoted by Malaysiakini as saying the government was “in discussions” with Grab. However, he offered no further details when pressed for clarification.

Yesterday, Grab president Ming Maa declined to reveal details or comment on the proposal.

“Unfortunately, we can’t talk about this, but we’ll be disclosing this as soon as we’ve made some progress,” he said when met at a forum.