Letter: Reform CVLB, not Rapid

This letter from the Consumers’ Association of Penang, caught our attention today.

It is clear that the prevailing theme from the users is that we need better bus services and the problem currently lies with the CVLB, not RapidKL competing with other operators.

Thursday May 28, 2009
Reform CVLB, not Rapid

THE Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) views with deep concern the statement by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz that the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) is re-examining the role of RapidKL after private bus companies complained they were losing passengers because their fares were higher.

Even more alarming is his comment that if necessary, the role of RapidKL would be taken over by other operators. Government agencies should not compete with private operators.

We urge the Government to look at the whole issue of public transport from the viewpoint of the needs and interests of the general public whom it is designed to serve. Their interests are paramount and the Government should not be swayed from its mission of serving them by the narrow interests of some private bus operators.

In short, the main objective of public transport should be to serve the rakyat, not merely to provide opportunities to private operators to make a profit.

We wish, however, to make it clear that we are not opposed to the participation of the private sector in public transport. However, they should play a complementary role in such an endeavour and in accordance with strict regulations imposed on them by any licensing authority.

In fact, it is the failure of the private operators to adhere to those conditions that has brought about the recent public transport crisis in this country.

Our experience in Penang bears this out. Private bus operators have for years been flouting the conditions of their permit with impunity. Many of these companies have never observed the conditions as regards time, route or regularity.

It is for this reason that the people of Penang welcomed the establishment of Rapid Penang. It has been a real boon to commuters in the island who for years have suffered under a scandalous public transport system.

However, the proper functioning and operation of Rapid buses in Penang is being hampered by private bus companies which not only continue to flout regulations but also engage in unfair competition with Rapid Penang.

If Datuk Seri Nazri’s statement that government agencies should not compete with private operators is taken as an expression of the present government’s policy, it would mean that not only RapidKL, but even Rapid Penang, will soon be privatised. This is totally unacceptable as such a move is clearly taken not in public interest but only to satisfy private interests.

In this respect, we find it particularly galling that the CVLB is being asked to re-examine the whole issue of the role of Rapid and the public sector in public transport. The point is that the public transport crisis would not have arisen but for the total failure and incompetence of the CVLB to discharge its duties in regulating public transport.

If there is any public body in this country which is in need of reform, it is surely the CVLB.

S.M. MOHD IDRIS,

President,

Consumers Association of Penang.

TRANSIT Says:

As we have said earlier, the problems in public transport in Malaysia clearly lie with the CVLB and the weak and divided bureaucratic organizations that surround it.

The problem is … how do we get this resolved? The government is talking about the national Public Land Transport Commission (proposed many years ago by various parties and highlighted by Moaz Yusuf Ahmad of TRANSIT in his report to the Finance Ministry in 2008). However, there is a huge concern that the new Public Land Transport Commission will just repeat the mistakes of the CVLB with a lack of competency, poor accountability and enforcement and no transparency.

One thing that the CVLB claims as a reason for their failure (and it is a failure) is that they have no enforcement powers. But a really tough question has to be asked – even if the CVLB has enforcement powers – would they use them?

So far the message is that, clearly they would not. And that comes from weak leadership and a government that refuses to take responsibility for the problems.

But things are changing. Putting the CVLB under the Prime Minister’s Department and putting Nazri Abdul Aziz in charge is a sign that the PM wants something to be accomplished.

The real challenge is making it happen – and making sure that the voices of commuters and public transport users are heard all along the way.

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