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Feedback from RapidPenang – the “rising star” in Malaysian public transport

“Much better than the rest.”

That is how members of TRANSIT describe RapidPenang, the Government-Linked company operating bus services in the State of Penang.

This is high praise. By all accounts, RapidPenang is a success story, even if one is only comparing RapidPenang to the extremely poor services that existed in Penang in recent decades.

Recently, Moaz from TRANSIT wrote to emphasize the importance of high-quality, sustainable and government-linked bus service as exemplified by RapidKL and most of all by RapidPenang.

This letter and commentary was sent to the media (see the NST version here) after hearing Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz say that he would review the role of RapidKL and RapidPenang, in response to comments from other bus operators who were unhappy with the so-called “unfair competition” posed by RapidKL and RapidPenang.

Today, TRANSIT takes note of a letter written by RapidPenang CEO Azhar Ahmad, in direct response to Moaz’s letter. We post it below for you to see that real action and improvements can be found with dedicated service.

To Zoolina bt. Mohd. Naim (director of RapidKL bus operations), Ebi Azly Abdullah (Communications Manager at RapidKL), Tengku Hasmadi (Director of Konsortium Transnasional Bas) and other operators, TRANSIT would like to say that RapidPenang has raised the bar for public transport in Malaysia and you must seek the opportunity to improve your services or be left behind.

For more information on RapidPenang bus services, please visit their website at

Rapid Penang: Focus on good governance
By : AZHAR AHMAD, Chief executive officer Rapid Penang Sdn Bhd

I REFER to the comments on a sustainable public bus transport system by Moaz Yusuf Ahmad of the Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit (“Best to review every aspect of the system” — NST, June 3.)

Rapid Penang was established on July 31, 2007. Since then, we have faced many challenges but we have persevered and gone from strength to strength. In the first quarter of this year, our monthly ridership was 1.65 million and the figure continues to grow.

This number represents ridership by only 10 per cent of the total population of Penang. Our ridership target is 40 per cent of the population, which we believe is achievable given the right ingredients to build a quality public transport system. The right ingredients are not merely buses but also the overall public transport infrastructure, good practices and transparent policies.

We are strongly against the pajak system as it simply enriches the middleman and leaves much to be desired in the services provided.

Under this obsolete system, the element of accountability and responsibility is absent. This system demoralises the core staff, namely the bus drivers, who toil for an unfair compensation package and eventually has a bad effect on productivity, which translates into a poor delivery system.

At Rapid Penang, our staff have been offered a stable, structured salary scheme with clear career paths outlined for each of them. There is no need for our bus drivers to speed because there is no “commission” on sale of tickets.

All bus routes are timed to ensure the frequency set is achievable. We do not wait to fill our buses before we set out for the assigned destinations.

No routes are beyond the reach of Rapid Penang. “Unprofitable routes” is not in our vocabulary. To us, it has always been people first. The products we offer commuters are Kad Pelajar, Kad Warga Emas and Kad Orang Kurang Upaya, where the card holders pay 50 per cent of the published rates, a big discount under our Corporate Social Responsibility programme. [These kinds of statement are appreciated]

Undeniably, revolutionising the public transportation system is a challenging and time-consuming task.

However, starting with the bus public transport is the correct first step to take because buses are the most affordable public transport system available worldwide. They are also user-friendly to all, including physically challenged communities. [Given Rapid Penang’s delay of accessible bus service for nearly 2 years, we are sure that many people in the physically challenged communities will likely take issue with this]

Singapore started to revolutionise its public transport system in 1982 and continues to sustain and improve it. Today, the ratio of bus users to the population in Singapore is 1:900, a magnificent feat by any measure. The exemplary bus public transport system in Hong Kong has a ratio of 1:666, whereas in Malaysia, as a whole, it is 1:4,500.

Rightly, a good public transportation system should be spearheaded by an effective public transport agency, one that listens to the public and relevant stakeholders, acts in an impartial manner and, above all, assumes the role of a definite agent of change. [See TRANSIT’s proposals here]

Gone are the days that public transport served only low-income groups. Today, more and more white-collar workers are opting for public transport

Therefore, it is fair to say that there is nothing wrong with either RapidKL or Rapid Penang. We continue to deliver and serve members of the public with pride, dedication and passion. If at all there is a need for restructuring the public transport system, that need is definitely in the sphere of governance.


We appreciate the feedback from Azhar Ahmad and look forward to greater improvements from RapidPenang … and to see RapidPenang step forward and work to improve other bus operators in Malaysia.

One reply on “Feedback from RapidPenang – the “rising star” in Malaysian public transport”

[…] That said, TRANSIT also believes that this is  a clear example of why there is an urgent need for a local public transport authority to be established to serve commuters in The Federal Territory and its vicinity. The Authority should have jurisdiction over enhancement of walking paths and construction of proper transit points. With effective mass transit planning (or good management and leadership), there can never be a situation where there is a ‘unprofitable… […]

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