I was against Gojek before, no need to remind me, says transport minister

Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook talking to passengers on Rapid Penang’s airport transfer bus.

GEORGE TOWN: Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook today said he remembers fully well that he was once against motorcycle e-hailing services such as Gojek due to concerns over safety.

He said what was important now was that the government was in favour of the proposal now and what he said before remained his personal opinion.

“People say it is a U-turn. People have reminded me of what I have said in Parliament before. I don’t need to be reminded; I remember what I have said.”

He said the decision on introducing motorcycle e-hailing was collectively made by the Cabinet.

“So, all ministries must accept it and figure out a way to make it happen, without compromising safety,” he said at a press conference at Weld Quay here today.

Loke said the motorcycle e-hailing platform could change the psyche and mindset of Malaysian motorcyclists as a whole as he feels they will be more careful when riding pillion with a customer.

“We must take this safety threat as an opportunity to change the habits of motorcyclists. With motorcycle e-hailing, you have to be more careful than before,” he said.

Loke said his ministry has a month from now to come up with a legal framework for bike e-hailing. He said concerns by a mufti on riders of the opposite sex riding pillion would be addressed, too.

Meanwhile, Loke said there were no plans by the government to introduce a congestion charge in any part of the country to get more to use public transport.

He said such a charge would only be introduced when there is an alternative. “Let us use more carrots first before we use the stick,” he said.

Earlier, he took an unplanned bus trip on Rapid Penang upon landing at the Penang International Airport. He took a ride to Weld Quay and commended it for being swift and cheap at just RM2.70 one way.

“I hope politicians can start promoting public transport by using it themselves. Then, others would join in, too,” he said.

Loke then launched Rapid Penang’s Pas Mutiara, a RM50 bus and ferry pass, which offers unlimited rides on all buses and ferries. The pass does not include ferry trips using cars.

Rapid’s bus service in Penang serves 71 routes on the island and Seberang Perai, with 16 million passengers a year or an average of 75,000 passengers per day, he said.

Rapid’s ferry services saw 865,559 pedestrian users yearly, compared with 762,498 vehicles (cars and motorcycles).

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (second from right) and Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook (right) holding up their Pas Mutiara, which gives unlimited rides monthly on Rapid buses and ferries.

‘Choice to have LRT entirely Penang’s’

Separately, Loke was asked about his opinion on Penang’s Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, which was recently approved by the government.

Last year, he had said the LRT system was not the best fit for Penang and he was asked today why his opinion on the matter had changed.

He said the LRT was approved as the Penang government met requirements set by the transport ministry.

“It is not for me to decide whether it is LRT or any other system. It is not a federal project.

“The Penang government, representing the Penang people, got the mandate from Penangites. They are the ones to decide on whether to use LRT or otherwise. It is not me.

“We are just the regulator. My personal opinion does not matter,” he said.

Last September, he had said a study conducted by his ministry had found LRT to be “not feasible” and had said the decision lies with the state to decide “what is best”.

The RM8 billion Bayan Lepas LRT project was approved by the transport ministry on July 17 with 30 conditions.

Improving ferry service

Loke said national infrastructure company Prasarana Malaysia Berhad will have to raise RM90 million in funds to upgrade the Penang ferry service through “internal channels”.

He said the earlier RM90 million allocated by the government to Prasarana was yet to be channelled due to a “few legal issues”.

Loke said in the meantime, Prasarana should go ahead and upgrade the ferry service through the introduction of catamarans.

He said two out of the six ferries will be turned into “tourist ferries” to keep the nostalgia of “old Penang” alive.

“The upgrade plans could take perhaps one or two years to be implemented. We will be able to see an improved ferry service then.”