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Letter: Compelling reasons to improve Ipoh public transport

TRANSIT took note of this letter by Ipoh resident and City Watch member Victor Chew, a regular contributor to the newspapers.

IPOH: Compelling reasons to revamp city’s public transport system
by Victor Chew

MANY letters and reports have appeared in the newspapers about the problems of public transport in Ipoh city but very little has been done to solve them.

And nothing came out of a seminar in Ipoh last year on the same subject because of the ongoing political crisis in the state. How long must we wait for a comprehensive public transport system to serve Ipoh for the next 10 to 20 years?

Many people, including city officials, think that Ipoh is a small place and that its public transport needs are not urgent. They are wrong. Traffic congestion is becoming worse with schools being the major cause of traffic jams. This problem surfaced in the early 1960s; many mayors tried to solve it but were met with opposition from school bodies when they suggested that schools be relocated from the city centre to the outskirts.

Why not keep the schools where they are but force parents to find alternative ways to sent their children to school? If they want the top schools like the Convent, St Michael’s Institution, Anderson, ACS, Ave Maria and Perak Girls School to be in the city proper, then they have to pay an alternative cost, that of sending their children by schoolbuses.

Their cars, the main cause of traffic congestion, must not be allowed in. They should be made to pay a toll for doing so during school peak hours. During these hours, a toll should be collected from parents who send and fetch their children.

However, in the long run, looking at the way Ipoh is being developed with radical expansion of housing estates all around, its central business district (CBD) will become very congested.

The streets within the CBD will not be able to cope. There will be perpetual traffic jams and lack of parking spaces and these problems will get worse when cars are double-parked. It is already happening outside banks and offices.

The solution is to coordinate the current bus services under a planning commission set up either by the city council or the Perak government. This commission will re-plan the routes to be serviced by existing companies and give them priority to increase services and routes if they want to. If they are unable to fulfil all the planned services, new companies should be allowed to run such services.

This commission will also be responsible for the issue of new licences for public transport and taxis for Ipoh City. In addition, this commission should be given the sole responsibility to take action against defaulting service providers. In this way, we have a central body within the city to control public transport operators, unlike now where everyone seems to have a say and no one wants to say anything.

Furthermore, it is time to start planning a light railway transport system. With the existing electrified dual carriage railway tracks of Keretaapi Tanah Melayu, a central link from Ipoh North to Ipoh South will become possible. Commuter services can run from as far north as Sungai Siput to as far south as Kampar. We also need a few east-west branch lines to complete the system.

A detailed map was produced by two of the speakers in the Ipoh City Watch Seminar on Public Transport; the authorities could use them as a guide.

I hope transport officials will consider the above ideas when planning Ipoh’s public transport system. A good public transport system rejuvenates a city but a city with a messy public transport system is bound to be in a state of decay.


We appreciate the letter from Victor Chew and thank him for pointing out that the political issues in Perak are causing a setback to planning and development.

Unfortunately, TRANSIT also notes that the Perak government was not receptive to our feedback even before this constitutional crisis came about.

TRANSIT had clearly stated our concern about:

1. The setting up of Combined Bus Services, a consortium of Ipoh bus operators that had been given license to control much of the bus services in the city. Here we are concerned that this private consortium would act to reduce competition and the quality of service in the Kinta Valley

2. The lack of government interest in improving public transport. Here our concern was based on the observation that the council and state government were doing nothing to improve public transport to prepare for the arrival of improved KTM Intercity Shuttle service, not to mention the (much delayed) Fast Train Service between KL and Ipoh (now anticipated to start operations in late 2009).

3. The relocation of urban public transport terminals from urban areas. Here TRANSIT expressed our concern about the relocation of bus services to the proposed “Sentral” terminal in Bandar Meru (not to be confused with the Klang Sentral Terminal on Jalan Meru).

To make a long story short, TRANSIT did attend the Kinta Valley Summit and our presentation can be seen here:

We believe that the solutions for public transport in Ipoh will require the Perak Government and Town Council to set up a proper Local Authority and a State Public Transport Council to help oversee the bus services and integrate bus services with the train services.

Our proposal included a map detailing our vision for improved rapid transit in the Kinta Valley as described by Victor Chew at the end of his letter.

4 replies on “Letter: Compelling reasons to improve Ipoh public transport”

The problems that plagued Ipoh’s public transport are not just the poor condition of buses, lack of buses resulting in long frequency between buses or transport from outside of Ipoh to the city center and vice versa.

Before we talk about efficient public transport to and fro outlaying areas of Ipoh, we must first look at the suburbs of Ipoh, where the majority of the population (and prospective bus users) live.

One major problem overlooked by public transport planners and campaigners is the layout and roads access of residential areas in Ipoh. Ipoh’s physical growth is very different from KL, which makes what is suitable for KL not the same for Ipoh.

As someone who actually takes the bus (in Ipoh as well as in KL), I can say that bus services in Ipoh will not succeed unless a radical and different approach is taken.

Ipoh bus operators bemoan the low number of passengers, resulting in low profits or losses. As such, they are reluctant to invest in new and more buses. This is reflected in complaints from bus users about public buses in Ipoh, ie run-down buses, long waiting time and irregular schedule.

The lack of passengers is not really that people are reluctant to take buses due to the poor condition of buses and bad bus services, but often time buses don’t service their areas. Simply put, many people could not take the bus even if they want to.

Stage buses can’t and don’t go into residential areas. The main reasons are narrow roads and local council restriction due to the weight of large stage buses that may damage residential roads.

Unlike in KL, residential estates are developed far from main roads. In some places, people staying there have to walk more than 1 km under the hot sun and in the rain to the main road to take the bus. Why would anyone want to suffer this routine day after day?

Even if someone can board the bus easily, does the bus go pass or near his/her destination? Very often buses pass far from where many people want to go. They won’t take the bus and then walk a long way.

With ‘cheap’ Perodua and Proton cars, almost everyone can afford to drive right up to their destinations’ doorstep. Otherwise the motorcycle is more convenient than the bus.

Bad routes add to the already terrible situation. Getting from one region to another region in Ipoh is difficult and a big hassle. Most of the time, changing of buses can only be done at the main bus terminal. So a person must take a long trip all the way into the city center before changing to another bus out again, wasting too much time.

For example, for me to travel to a place 3 km from my home, I have to take the bus out to the city center (15 minutes) and change to another bus to get there (30 minutes). Waiting for the bus may take up to another hour. So a trip that takes 10 minutes by car or motorcycle can take up to 2 hours by bus.

My solution is to allow mini-buses to service residential areas so that they can pass near bus users. The mini-buses will bring passengers out to main roads where stage buses ply between different regions of Ipoh.

Being smaller and nimbler, mini-buses can travel on narrow residential roads and don’t damage them. The lower passenger capacity makes them more economical to ply residential areas where there are fewer passengers picked up per trip.

Instead of routes being spokes emanating from the city center hub, there should be direct inter-region routes, bypassing the city center where possible. This will shorten travel time between regions.


Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful comments about public transport in Ipoh.

TRANSIT believes that mini-buses and taxi-van service play an important role in providing local public transport service. At the same time, there must be a frequent, reliable and accessible rapid-transit network that acts as the backbone of the public transport system.

This rapid-transit network may be in the form of Metro, Commuter Rail, LRT, Rapid Tram or Bus Rapid Transit, depending on the layout and level of demand in the city.

The maps posted in TRANSIT’s Proposals page ( reflect the rapid-transit routes but do not include the regular bus routes and interlinking services.

Once again, thank you for your feedback and we encourage you to give more feedback about Ipoh and the Kinta Valley.


Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
on behalf of TRANSIT


Do visit the proposals’ link posted by Moaz. Hub-and-spoke system (and ring, for traveling needs that cut through the city center) utilizes Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) with buses plying common corridors straight to the city center (straight pathways, exclusive bus lanes), and minibuses or local buses serving each nodes of the BRT corridors.

Hope to hear more inputs from you.


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