(comments by TRANSIT in italic below article)
From The New Straits Times Online
By Sean Augustin
HULU TERENGGANU: The state government will review the need for a RapidTerengganu public transport service following concerns that it is not a viable venture and will affect local bus operators already facing a hard time to survive.
Rapid Terengganu, similar to RapidPenang and RapidKL, was announced during the time of former Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.
A company was set up in 2006 to handle the task.
The state government then purchased 20 buses for RM11 million, and in May this year, the present state government said it was selecting the logo and pictures for use on the bus.
The state government also took delivery of the buses a month ago, but RapidTerengganu has yet to take off.
Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said said because RapidTerengganu buses would be plying the same routes as local bus operators, the latter feared their businesses may be affected.
Besides Kuala Terengganu, RapidTerengganu would also service Kemaman, Besut, Marang, Dungun, Ajil a nd Jabor.
The state government may have to look for new routes for the RapidTerengganu bus service.
“If new routes are introduced, many people will not use the bus service.
“The state government, on the other hand, would still have to bear operating costs, including fuel costs, taxes and insurance.
“If we have to shut down operations because we did not conduct a thorough review of the proposal, it would be embarrassing for us,” he said after attending a buka puasa here on Monday.
The state government, he said, also had to cough up about RM1 million in taxes for the buses.
Ahmad said the government had decided to distribute the buses for use by agencies and recently, it had distributed four of the buses to the state Religious Affairs Department.
Comments by Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
on behalf of TRANSIT, Klang Valley
Here is another example of how government, while meaning well, may end up making serious mistakes.
The State Government of Terengganu wants to provide better public transport services but the proposed Rapid Terengganu would compete with existing bus services.
The State Government could keep the operators happy by focusing on the social routes – but then the government ends up operating money losing routes while the private operators are allowed to profit. How is that a fair situation?
Why should the privately owned corporations get the opportunity to profit while the government owned (publicly-owned) corporations are loss-making? Why can we not find a system that benefits all sides – government, operator and consumer?
The State Government made the mistake of going ahead with the purchase of the buses without going through detailed consultation with operators and with the public. Now they are stuck with buses that they have paid for, and no opportunity for them to profit.
They can let the buses out to their own government departments but the buses might not have the appropriate design. Since the public was not consulted in the purchase of the buses, we do not know if they are appropriately designed, urban-friendly, and most of all, universally accessible.
The solution is actually quite simple though. The State Government can set up a Local Public Transport Authority and take over control of all of the bus routes in the State, then offer them to the private operators on contract. Since the routes would be on contract, the State Government would retain control. With a 5 year contract period there could be a guarantee of service for that time which would allow the government and the operator and the consumer to benefit.
Since the buses would be owned by the State, there would be security for all stakeholders as well. The operator would not have to worry about the capital costs of purchasing the buses, they would only need to worry about operating and maintaining the buses. The state would own the buses and they could be re-used under future contracts. If one operator is found to be in breach of contract, the State Government can take back the buses and offer a contract to another bus operator.
It is a win, win, win situation. Unfortunately, this effective regulatory structure would not be allowed because the federal government views public transport operators as a business for private operators only.
TRANSIT calls upon the CVLB and the State Government of Terengganu to implement a Local Public Transport Authority in the state, reorganize bus services and allow everyone to win.