The Sun today reports on Malaysia’s biggest bus consortium’s shoulder rubbing with the operator of the nation’s first ever airport-like bus terminal.
E-ticketing woes at Bandar Tasik Selatan (The Sun)
KUALA LUMPUR (March 22, 2011): Several bus operators are being driven up the wall by what they claim are double standards imposed on them at the Bandar Tasik Selatan integrated transport terminal (BTS-ITT).
They allege that the poor location of their ticket counters have negatively impacted their businesses since they moved in.
Konsortium Transnasional Berhad (KTB) executive director Tengku Hasmadi Tengku Hashim said the new, airport-like bus terminal is a “facade for unfair treatment” of bus operators whose tickets are not sold via the BTS e-ticketing system.
“When the terminal was completed in October last year, we were told that the operators of the terminal, Maju Terminal Management and Services (Maju TMAS) Sdn Bhd, would be selling tickets via its e-ticketing system, on behalf of all bus operators,” said Tengku Hasmadi.
Since KTB had its own e-ticketing system, it refused to allow Maju TMAS to sell tickets on their behalf.
Following complaints by bus operators, a Jan 11 directive allowed companies with their own e-ticketing systems to sell tickets without using the BTS system. New counters were also built for the operators to sell their tickets.
“However, the new counters are located behind a retail store and the customer service centre. Passengers walking in from the connecting train stations will be unable to see the counters clearly,” said Tengku Hasmadi.
“The new counters are also not built to the same standards of the existing counters,” he said.
He added that since KTB started selling tickets at the new counters on March 1, ridership has dropped by 30% per day on weekdays, and 10% per day on weekends – about 3,000 and 1,000 passengers per day respectively.
As such, KTB and eight other bus operators have sent a letter to the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) for immediate relocation of its ticket counters at the terminal.
The letter suggested the counters be relocated to an empty space of about 15m next to the executive lounge at the terminal, which is more visible.
Visits to the terminal by theSun showed while the location of the counters was not ideal, it was still visible from the arrival gate.
However, anyone arriving from the bridge connecting the train stations will find it hard to locate the counters – although there are three banners pointing to the new counters.
The article seems to echo KTB Chairman’s comments in The Malay Mail not too long ago.
In an interview with The Malay Mail yesterday, Nadzmi said: “We have already spent nearly RM10 million to develop our e-ticketing system over the last 10 years, and now, we can’t use it at the new ITT? This is not fair and it is unacceptable.”
He wondered why Maju TMAS was being so inflexible. “All the time and cost of building up and stabilising our in-house e-ticketing system, which could be considered the best in the business, would be fruitless.”
Nadzmi said the KTB e-ticketing system was more advanced than those used by other bus companies or the BTS-ITT as it allowed passengers to purchase tickets from any location to any destination served by KTB.
“We have developed it over time and if we are to comply with the Maju TMAS centralised ticketing policy, it would be like we have to downgrade our own ticketing system, and all the money we have spent would be wasted.”
Describing the pre-conditions and rules set by Maju TMAS for the bus operators as “bullying tactics” to gain revenue for the terminal, Nadzmi said: “From our long experience of running our own counters at Puduraya and other bus terminals around the country, the actual cost per ticket is far lower than the RM1 surcharge per ticket imposed by [the] BTS-ITT operator.
TRANSIT wonders why there is the need to create multiple sets of ticketing systems (one run by terminal operator vs others by bus operators). This follows other similar issues within the public transport sector: private operators have to bear high risks to invest and innovate in new systems to survive – when the risks should be partly or mostly borne by the public sector due to its ‘proportional’ portion of influence towards the overall transportation demand pattern.
KTB has spent RM10 million for its ticketing system, and yet a new operator with this new virgin and unexplored ‘terminal operation business model’ came, set up an alien system which others find harder to understand, and force others to adapt with its ‘business model’ within several days’ notice.
This is a glaring example of what happens when the authorities fail to consult all stakeholders during the planning state. The planning of the terminal, which operations and construction apparently comes from the same parent company (Maju Holdings), severely fails to include consultative inputs from the various stakeholders (users, operators, surrounding communities) right from the blueprint, to the groundbreaking, and finally through the project commencement stages.
Consider this – up to this date, the terminal’s website has no information at all on service routes of bus operators that ran under its nose. Nothing! Zero. Zila. Zilch. At least, Transnasional bus operators have spent millions for a system (https://www.ticket4u.com.my) that allows online ticket booking 6 hours ahead.
If the government wants to integrate ticketing, then it should have consulted with the operators on how their fare box management can be streamlined at all express bus gateways in Malaysia, and on how all operations can be uniformly codified. Consider how airports in Los Angeles and Kuala Lumpur are codenamed (LAX and KUL) respectively, and the airlines with their own unique code names that can be understood across different platforms. Even the KL City Air Terminal has its own ‘airport’ code (XKL).
But until now, there is no one single government agency or body that handles information on express bus routes and schedules (let alone city and local bus lines information), that make ticket fare and journey comparison a breeze.
TRANSIT has proposed that the Land Public Transport Commission restructure from their “rail” & “road” divisions (inherited from the Department of Railways & CVLB) and replace them with “Urban” (handling & stage buses, Komuter, LRT, MRT, Monorail, Taxi) and “Interurban” (handling express & local interurban buses, intercity & ETS trains, long-distance taxi) public transport divisions. This would better reflect the structure of public transport in Malaysia.
NOTE: There would also be separate divisions for integrated transport terminals, freight (road & rail) and private bus services (excursion, school & factory buses).
Operations of terminals in cities with good public transport are handled directly by the transit organizing authorities (or transit service concessionaires) themselves. BTS ITT should be no different.
TRANSIT also has to wonder why the terminal operator decided to burden passengers with a separate boarding pass system (which requires extra time from the passenger) when an e-ticket (as practiced by the airline industry) can be simply be shown (or scanned) with IC during boarding.