Updated with another totally unscientific poll! See the bottom of this post!
For many years, TRANSIT has been concerned about the state of the bus industry in Malaysia as well as the impact on public transport services throughout the country.
On 11 February, the Pan Malaysian Bus Operators’ Association (PMBOA) submitted a memorandum to the government asking that the government take over all bus services in the country, or alternatively, provide “grants” to sustain their businesses. Otherwise, the PMBOA warns that the public transport industry in Malaysia could collapse!
There are a significant number of factors that are undermining the bus industry in this country – from bureaucratic legal standards to politicking to safety issues & cronyism. All of these are compounding the huge problem of the lack of enforcement of existing standards and regulations – which ultimately leads to the poor service that exists today.
With the arrival of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), TRANSIT is hoping that many of the issues in the public transport industry will be resolved over the next few years, but to be honest, reforms like this take decades.
And, although SPAD has made it clear that they are going to improve the bus system, their current attention to the MRT projects leaves us to wonder how they will manage to resolve the issues surrounding the bus system in the Klang Valley, let alone the whole country (and we haven’t even started talking about taxis, railways, etc.).
But we do believe that SPAD has the right thinking and the comments from Syed Hamid Albar, Chair of SPAD, (saying that the government was not going to take over bus operators and the issues could not be resolved by takeovers/bailouts) show that SPAD is on the right track.
‘Takeover of buses not the answer’ (NST)
17 February 2011
KUALA LUMPUR: Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar says the government is looking into ways to resolve the woes of stage bus operators in the country.
“It is not a simple matter of just taking over the stage buses,” he said, adding that the government already had its own buses like Prasarana, Rapid, Mara Liner and Maju.
He was commenting on the memorandum submitted by the Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association (PMBOA) on Feb 11, urging the government to acquire all the stage bus companies in the country.
“I understand the bus operators’ dissatisfaction, that they feel they are competing with the government companies and that their profits are being diluted or eaten away by government companies.
“They are saying that since the government is interested in the bus transport industry, we should acquire all the buses. It’s not as easy as that.
He said SPAD was in the midst of various studies on how best to handle the matter.
“We will look at the memorandum and look for the best way to move forward.”
PMBOA president Datuk Ashfar Ali said to avoid the total collapse of stage buses in the country, the government could either buy over the buses or offer the bus companies grants for them to sustain the business.
“We don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. We are asking for the government’s help as a last resort.
“The government has done it in the Klang Valley where Parkmay and Intrakota were bought and turned into Rapid. Why can’t it do the same elsewhere?” he asked.
In the memorandum, he listed factors like increasing operational costs which forced many companies to close down their business, like the Chin Wah Omnibus (which used to operate in Port Dickson), Sum Omnibus (Kajang-Bangi), and Lian Hoe Omnibus (Muar-Batu Pahat).
He said to stay in business, the stage bus operators had stopped all unprofitable routes, thereby affecting poor commuters.
PMBOA represents 130 bus companies in the country with 3,200 buses and more than 9,000 employees.
First, we understand that there is significant trouble within the public transport industry but we do not appreciate the alarmist comments from the PMBOA.
Second, we do not understand why the PMBOA wants the government to take over bus services. It is quite clear from research that the best system of operation of buses is private operations, contracted to government regulators. Government-owned monopolies and unregulated competition have clearly shown themselves to be costly & ineffective, with poor service as the ultimate result.
Third, we do agree with the PMBOA that there is a problem having government-owned and private operators competing on the same, un-level playing field.
Frankly, more money or government buy-outs are not the solution that we need.
Now, for more background on the grouses of the PMBOA, take a look at the following series of articles in Free Malaysia Today, which discusses some of the issues in the public transport industry from the perspective of the bus operators.
Ok, to be honest, the articles basically quote the Pan-Malaysian Bus Operators’ Association’s point of view on public transport issues in Malaysia – basically, blaming the government for messing everything up.
- Bleak journey ahead for bus companies
- No masterplan for public transport, only red tape
- Illegal bus operators are kings of the road in Sabah, Sarawak
There are a lot of problems in the public transport industry, but we feel that it is high time that the PMBOA started to take up a more proactive approach to taking responsibility for the bus operators in Malaysia and raising the standards of public transport in this country.
Government bailouts or takeovers are not the solution that the public transport industry needs, and by demanding this from the government (and threatening that the industry will collapse without it) the PMBOA is showing us that they are not interested in being part of the solution
Once again, TRANSIT offers you another totally unscientific poll for your enjoyment: