What have 100 Days of Najib as Prime Minister brought for public transport?

Commentary

The passing of ‘100 Days’ of Najib Tun Razak as Prime Minister of Malaysia were marked with glowing reports in all of the mainstream media.

In the celebration, Najib announced ’11 Gifts’ for the people of Malaysia. Or should we say, for certain people in Malaysia?

Certainly the users of public transport do not benefit from any of the ’11 Gifts’ — despite the fact that “improvements to public transport” comes in among Najib’s stated goals.

TRANSIT takes note of the following “Gifts” which show that the Prime Minister is interested in making things easier for other people but not the users of public transport.

1. Toll Rates – 20% discount on toll rates for persons who pay at least 80 times per month (using Touch ‘N’ Go or Smart Tag) – The government will ask toll operators to provide a 20% discount to drivers who pay toll more than 80 time per month (using Touch ‘N’ Go or Smart Tag). The toll operators will be given compensation for the lost revenue.

At this point it is not clear whether the 20% discount would be for the 80 tolls already paid or for the tolls above the threshold.  In other words, if I pay toll 85 times do I get a 20% discount on all 85 tolls or just the 5 above 80?

What we do know is this: that the most regular users of lorries and buses and taxis (e.g. public transport) will not be able to benefit from this discount.

Many operators do not use Touch ‘N” Go or Smart Tag as a matter of policy, so they can keep track of transactions by using paper receipts.  Perhaps these companies are unaware that you can keep track of payments electronically or that Touch N Go Sdn. Bhd. has two different types of fleet card (Fleet Xs and BizXs) available?

Then there is the problem that there are no facilities for using electronic payments on the heavy vehicle lanes at the toll plazas.

Which is too bad, really – because a company like RapidKL which operates along the Federal Highway, could save a lot of money and cut down on wasted time if they only had a service like TRANSIT’s proposed “Bus TAG” or the new Multi-Lane Free Flow system (which is to be tested starting next year – in theory).

With the former CEO of Plus Expressways now acting as MD of Prasarana, one would think it would be easy to get a change like this implemented. But no, no one wants to think outside of the box here.

TRANSIT also notes that the discount does not extend to Touch ‘N’ Go users on public transport (er, rapidKL only).  Does the Prime Minister not know that RapidKL has been searching for a way to get more of its passengers to switch to Touch ‘N’ Go?  Talk about a missed opportunity!

2. Taxi Permits – 7,000 additional taxi permits including 3000 immediately – TRANSIT  has already stated clearly that there is no need for additional taxi permits.  What is needed is a clean taxi system that does not exploit taxi drivers (who in turn exploit their passengers).

While individual permits sound like a good solution, they only act to increase competition for a dwindling customer base – which means more drivers will be sitting around the malls and tourist areas hoping for a big fish to catch.

3. Motorcycle License – Reducing the cost of a B2 license from RM500 to RM211 – According to the Road Transport Department, they have issued 6 million new motorcycle licenses and registered 8.4 million new motorcycles, suggesting that 2 milion motorcyclists rode without a license last year.  Reducing the price of the license and courses from RM500 to RM211 would, in theory, encourage more people to apply for their licenses since the high cost would no longer be a factor.

But let’s be honest – many of these people who ‘cannot find the money’ will have similar problems even if the fee is RM211.  Then we have to know whether the Rm211 is going to get them proper training.

Having dozens more reckless motorcyclists on the road is going to be bad news, whether they are licensed or not.

And we havent even gone into the other issue, that the motorcycle is often a competitor with public transport.

Other Initiatives

In his ‘100 Days’ as Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has taken some initiatives forward.

More attention is being given to resolving the problems with the CVLB.  Now that it has been put back into the hands of Nazri Abdul Aziz, and with the replacement of Markiman Kobiran as Director, there is a great impetus for performance.

Federal Territories Minister Thamby Nong Chik seems to be making some efforts on resolving the problems with Puduraya, and there are certainly improvements anticipated there.

However, on the day-to-day we have yet to see any major changes.  The government of Najib appears to be continuing with the holding pattern offered by his predecessor.

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