With bus operators easily flouting the laws – who protects the public transport users?

TRANSIT took note of this very interesting article in the Star Metro section on 23 June 2009 that outlines some of the challenges faced by the major bus operators thanks to poor planning, weak government agencies, and total disrespect for the law.

23 June 2009

Law-abiding bus operators hard hit by underhanded monopoly
Story and photo by YIP YOKE TENG

IRRESPONSIBLE reckless stage bus operators in the Klang Valley are laughing their way to the bank while the law-abiding transport operators bear the brunt and lose hundreds of thousands of ringgit in ticket sales every month.

The selfish and reckless bus operators use all sorts of illegitimate means to hog popular boarding areas to corner passengers, causing other bus operators to be denied access to the customers.

According to an industry source, several stage bus companies had closed down or were considering shutting down as they could not cope with the unfair and high-handed competition.

Alternative: As enforcement at Pudu Raya has been beefed up, bus companies have found other places to stop their buses illegally. Image courtesy of the Star
Alternative: As enforcement at Pudu Raya has been beefed up, bus companies have found other places to stop their buses illegally. Image courtesy of the Star

“My company loses up to RM800,000 each month since it relocated its operations to the new bus terminal at Klang Sentral in Meru in December last year,” the source [from RapidKL?] said.

He said while the law-abiding bus operators moved to the new bus terminal when ordered by the local authorities despite its inconvenient location, a company [Wawasan Sutera] still stationed all its buses at the old terminal.

“The company [Wawasan Sutera] disobeying the order is enjoying brisk business while the law-abiding ones operating at the new but unpopular location are losing customers and money,” he said.

“This is a major problem facing the transport industry as a result of the notorious pajak (leasing) system that the authorities have failed to act on. The situation is becoming worse and it is affecting even the major market shareholders,” he said.

Similar problems are also faced by the law-abiding bus operators at the Klang Bus Stand in Kuala Lumpur, near the Pasar Seni LRT station, where the die-hard law-breaking bus drivers park their vehicles by the road, blocking the other buses, to wait for passengers.

The companies like Cityliner, Ceria and RapidKL are left with no business. Ironically, they have to pay a monthly rental of RM4,000 per lane to station their buses at the terminal.

“It is really demoralising that companies who follow the rules suffer such huge losses every month, but those who don’t pay, and who break the laws, are making a fortune,” one company official said.

He said his company, out of frustration, had tried to secure a space in front of the bus stand but was forced out by the violent bus operators.

“Our drivers had been threatened and the windscreen of our buses were also broken several times.

“We had lodged police reports but our employees work in fear at the station,” he said.

He said the authorities had conducted four raids on the unscrupulous operators this year but had not succeeded to stop or even curb the problem.

“Worse still, the culprits have made the public road near the station into their exclusive area, even charging the smaller bus companies as much as RM4,000 for 10 days to park their vehicles or pick up passengers,” the company official said.

“They are actually snubbing even the police because that road they occupied is just next to the KL traffic police headquarters,” he said.

Last week, StarMetro reported on the worsening impact of the pajak system as each driver has to pay up to RM700 a day in leasing charges for the bus and permit. [Time to stop the reckless bus drivers – Star Metro 11 June 2009]

To make up for the exorbitant leasing charges, the drivers zoom through city streets to make as many trips as possible, giving nary a thought to the safety of other road users.

According to the former CVLB chairman Datuk Markiman Kobiran, the leasing system or what has been wrongly labelled as a “franchise system” is illegal as the practice contravened the CVLB Act 1987, the Public Transportation Regulations as well as the conditions attached to the issuance of permit.

Markiman had said that when he was still the CVLB chief* he was aware of the problem and the CVLB enforcement officers were gathering evidence to nab the culprits.

TRANSIT Says:

This situation shows clearly how much public transport has deteriorated in the Klang Valley despite the “best efforts” of bus operators, the government and public transport users to create an effective customer-oriented system.

The weakness of the CVLB is not just related to its lack of enforcement personnel. Clearly there was a weakness at the top that prevented the CVLB from doing anything but sitting back and wringing their hands.

TRANSIT hopes that new CVLB Chair Halimah Sidique will take a clear stand against these errant bus and taxi operators. No more talk, it is time for action.

TRANSIT encourages all public transport users to stop using bus companies that use the pajak system, drive recklessly, disobey road rules, and cheat you, the user, preventing you from getting the convenient public transport service that you deserve.

*TRANSIT also believes that the media should stop asking former CVLB Chair Markiman Kobiran for his opinion, experience, or feedback on the issues related to public transport, since his term with the CVLB is now over.  It is also clear to us that it was during his term as chair that the major decline took place.

TRANSIT wishes to make it very clear (on behalf of all public transport users) that we expect far mroe quality from the new CVLB Chair, Halimah Sidique, the Federal Territories Minister Raja Nong Chik, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz.

We include the article below for background information:

Thursday June 11, 2009
Time to stop the reckless bus drivers
By YIP YOKE TENG

IT HAS been observed that in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, many bus drivers are reckless and negligent, almost indifferent to the safety of their passengers and other road users.

They zoom through the roads like daredevil drivers, with nary a care for anyone else and endangering other motorists.

Even when they are waiting for passengers, they couldn’t be bothered to park their buses properly but hog almost the entire street, with their vehicles emitting smoke, heat and fumes.

Such selfish and thoughtless acts certainly endanger the lives of many but all the complaints against them seem to be falling on deaf ears.

The problem continues to deteriorate with the buses parked along the roads near the Petaling Street Chinatown, especially in Jalan Tun Tan Siew Sin, Jalan Tun H.S Lee and Leboh Pudu, obstructing traffic in the area.

The situation looks like it can only become worse because some of these drivers now have to pay up to RM700 a day in leasing charges for the buses and permits.

According to an industry source, a bus driver can make up to RM2,000 per day plying busy routes such as Bukit Bintang to Bangkok Bank or Subang to Kota Raya, so the high leasing charges are not unreasonable.

Another factor enticing the drivers to bulldoze their way through the busy streets and shout at the top of their voice to solicit business is the 12% and 10% commission for drivers and conductors respectively.

This resembles the dreadful conduct of the infamous mini-bus drivers and the cut-throat taxi drivers, but on a more risky scale as the vehicles involved are much bigger.

The perennial headache that once surrounded the defunct city mini-buses are rearing their ugly heads again, haunting the passengers and authorities.

Among those persistent problems are the perpetual issue of not plying the non-profitable routes, the constant short-cutting of journeys, the overloading of passengers and, of course, the reckless driving.

“The bus service is merely a lucrative business for the companies and the drivers. They take up only the routes that rake in good monies. Not only will it create many problems for passengers, it is also damaging the equilibrium among bus companies as others have to serve the less profitable social routes,” the industry source said.

The flow of the entire urban transportation system is also affected as the buses do not stop at designated bus stands, in addition to hogging certain areas and operating mostly during the rush hours.

The source also claimed that some drivers of these bus companies were foreigners, who flagrantly flouted the rules.

The law requires a bus driver to be a local with clean driving record, clean record of drug use, and have a public service vehicle (PSV) licence. When a driver is hired, he should undergo an induction training on safe driving, vehicle care, customer care, company information and their duties.

A random check by StarMetro showed that many of the buses are not well maintained in terms of cleanliness and that makes one sceptical of the amount of care given to ensure that the vehicles are in good order.

A Klang Valley bus company that has long been the target of public complaints has openly made the leasing of its buses available.

When contacted, a person-in-charge said the company offered business to individuals through a “franchising” system.

He said a franchise holder was only required to pay RM65,000 per bus in royalty, a daily rental of RM260, which could be covered easily as even a normal average route can bring in about RM700 per day.

The company official said a bus driver and his conductor were paid commission of about 10% each.

Asked how did the system differ from that of the notorious mini-bus operation, he said: “The mini-bus company used to take under the table money but we don’t.”

According to Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit in Klang Valley (TRANSIT) adviser Moaz Yusuf Ahmad, the leasing system, or what he calls the pajak system, has turned from bad to worse.

“It is basically like how some taxi drivers lease their permits to others. It is against the regulations and the CVLB (Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board) should come hard on this but it has not been taking action so far,” he said.

Moaz said in the 1960s, the country’s bus system was smooth and systematic but the concept of leasing set in when the government decided to privatise public transportation with the introduction of the mini-bus system.

“Now, we have the 12m-long buses instead that have a much greater impact on the congestion and environment.

“Worse still, they continue to expand as though law does not exist. Also, these buses run on subsidised diesel, in other words, the government is subsiding a blatantly illegal activity,” he said.

CVLB chairman Datuk Markiman Kobiran, when contacted, reiterated that such conduct was illegal.

“No matter how they call the system, the leasing of buses has contravened the CVLB Act 1987, the Public Transportation Regulations as well as the conditions attached to the issuance of permit,” he said.

According to Markiman, the CVLB is aware of such malpractice and is monitoring the situation and gathering evidence.

“However, what we have received so far are mere allegations and presumptions. The culprits are clever enough to leave no trace but we believe they will be caught if they have done wrong.

“I assure you that the board will take action against them once we gather the evidence,” he said.

When contacted, the Klang Valley’s main public transportation operator RapidKL conceded that a lot needed to be done to improve the bus services and high on the list would be to create a bus staging area so that timetables could be strictly adhered to.

“The buses should run on schedule and not based on demand.

“With a staging area in place, traffic controllers can monitor the bus schedule effectively and this is what RapidKL has been doing all this while, independently of the other operators,” RapidKL Communication general manager Ebi Azly Abdullah said.

According to Ebi, an ideal system to prevent abuse would be to impose a uniform standard that covers the aspects of routes, frequencies and the condition of vehicles.

He also suggested the use of bus lanes to counter the Klang Valley’s worsening traffic congestion that had been affecting the bus schedules.

Ebi said RapidKL was meeting the local authorities to seek their assistance in providing proper facilities at various end-points along the bus network.

“This includes building shelters and washrooms, as these places can also be converted into proper transport hubs.

“We need the local council’s assistance in identifying suitable locations for these facilities, which can even be built by the government through Prasarana,” he said.

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