Penang bus operators cry foul over ‘touts’ at terminal

The Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal. (Facebook pic by Penang Kini)

GEORGE TOWN: A group of express bus operators here claim they have been “terrorised” by touts demanding a commission for every ticket sold over the past two years.

They said the group, comprising about 60 people, had been approaching walk-in customers and escorting them to the ticketing booth. They then demand referral fees of RM12-RM18, depending on the destination.

Edward Lim, a spokesman for the 15 bus operators at the Sungai Nibong bus terminal, said they had made repeated complaints to the authorities but to no avail.

“I think from tomorrow onwards, we will no longer use the bus terminal to pick up passengers. We will wait for customers by the roadside,” he said in a press conference yesterday.

On average, he said, bus operators make only RM20 per ticket which in itself represents a loss. He said they had tried to broker a deal with the touts to give them RM7 per ticket, but they refused to accept it.

If the bus operators refuse to pay the commissions, he said, the touts would redirect passengers to companies who were willing to do so.

He claimed only two bus companies are willing to cough up commissions for the touts.

“Three days ago, we only sold 12 tickets in a day when there are 1,000. If you calculate roughly, we have had to absorb over RM100,000 in losses due to touts.”

Lim said the operators had lodged five reports: four to the Land Public Transport Agency and one to the police.

Edward Lim, the bus operators’ spokesman, holds up some of the reports made to the authorities which he says have yet to receive a response.

“No action was taken.”

He said the 15 bus companies at the Sungai Nibong terminal are now relying on profits from online ticketing services and kiosks at the Komtar bus terminal.

Checks by FMT found a group of individuals at the terminal who call themselves “promoters”. In an advertisement on the Facebook page of Penang Kini, they claim to have been issued official lanyards and passes.

However, a source in the terminal’s management told FMT they had never issued such passes.

It said the management is in charge of cleanliness and managing the day-to-day operations of the bus terminal, and has no control over what transpires between bus operators and their agents.

It said the terminal receives about 900 passengers per day with over 100 buses passing through on a daily basis.