Public Transport: Who’s the Boss?

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TRANSIT issued this statement regarding the application for Judicial Review by Metrobus Nationwide Sdn. Bhd. on RapidKL’s daily pass fares.

This case will be mentioned today by the KL High Court. Whatever happens, the decision will be significant for public transport in Malaysia.

TRANSIT has not received any comment from RapidKL or Prasarana on this case, despite our requests.

Public transport: Who is the boss?
30 September 2009

The Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit (Transit) regrets the government’s recent involvement in pressuring RapidKL to abolish the widely accepted all-day pass fare system for buses.

The directive, which is supposed to make RapidKL’s competitors happy, is a serious drawback in overhauling our public transport system.

A core criterion of an effective public transport system is the ability to maximise transit interchange possibilities of various public transport modes (bus, train, etc) to efficiently move a large number of people to reach their destinations faster and easier.

We have witnessed during the pre-RapidKL era how point-to-point travelling (where one mode of public transport is expected to carry commuters from their backyards right to their workplaces) was counter-productive to commuting convenience and created havoc with city traffic.

RapidKL was on the right track when it introduced the hub-and-spoke system, where commuters have the liberty to transit in between different bus routes without facing hurdles such as having to pay additional fares.

It is the lack of infrastructural integration to even facilitate fast and easy transit interchanges between different RapidKL bus routes (not to mention seamless integration with other operators and with different transit modes) and the lack of proper support systems to prevent the buses from being bogged down by traffic bottlenecks that cause commuters to shun RapidKL buses despite the attractive RM2 all-day fare.

Instead of addressing these root problems, the government bowed to the other operators and made RapidKL more unattractive to the masses by asking RapidKL to follow the fare structure of the other inefficient operators. Although these bus operators do not have access to taxpayers’ money as RapidKL does, the government cannot assume RapidKL has an unfair advantage with its low-fare pricing structure. The other operators are guilty of delivering poor quality service, and the government is guilty of not providing the necessary infrastructure and support systems, both of which evidently perpetuate the condition of the pre-RapidKL commuting environment.

Instead of pressuring RapidKL, the government should provide equal funding opportunities for other operators in return for meeting transit performance targets.

The High Court has set Sept 30 as the date to decide on a judicial review application by Metrobus to pressure the CVLB to enforce the same rates of fare on RapidKL, and it is with high hope that the government will finally have some sense to realise that public-funded public transport is a mobility right for every individual whose livelihood is affected by traffic congestion.

To force RapidKL’s fare and operational structure to follow  that of other bus operators is equal to allowing the pre-RapidKL commuting environment to persist, and hence to deny the citizens of Klang Valley of their mobility rights.

Public transport investment (which is more accurate than the term “subsidy”) is imperative to negate all negative externalities associated with lessening quality of urban life as a result of dependency on private vehicles. Without the public sector’s lead, public transport will remain unattractive as it is natural for private investors to avoid absorbing the costs of setting up proper support systems needed to match the convenience that private transport offers.

A single occupancy vehicle driver takes up more public-funded travelling space than a passenger in a fully-seated bus, and hence uses a much bigger portion of the government’s coffers. It is time for the government to face up to the reality and decide who is the boss: the commuters or the shareholders of transport companies.


M. Zulkarnain Hamzah
Shah Alam

TRANSIT Says:

Despite what people may think, there is a huge significance here and it goes beyond the fare system chosen by RapidKL. What we are talking about here is a mode of public transport that focuses on service – not operations and profits.

Making this mode of public transport successful requires coordination between governments and local authorities and public transport operators – in the form of a Public Transport Council that applies the 4-stakeholders model to real cities and communities and public transport services.

If we wish to create this model in Malaysia there needs to be a real commitment to public transport – and so far the government’s efforts to change RapidKL’s system & fares in order to pacify companies like Metrobus does not demonstrate that strong commitment.

The judgement of the High Court is listed below. We will get the relevant details from the Bar Council website as soon as possible.

Court: CVLB breached law when approving lower fares

KUALA LUMPUR: The Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) breached the law when approving lower fares for RapidKL in 2006, the High Court ruled.

However, the court also determined there was not enough evidence to show the board had practised unfair discrimination against Metrobus Nationwide Sdn Bhd, the applicant in the case.

As such, High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Datuk Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin did not award any damages to Metrobus but ordered the respondents to pay costs.

Metrobus, the direct competitor of RapidKL’s bus service, had sought a judicial review of CVLB’s decision and damages for income loss.

The company named CVLB and the Govern­ment as respondents.

Justice Alizatul ruled that CVLB’s decision in March 2006 to allow lower fares was ultra vires to the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board Act 1987 and the CVLB (Rates of Fare) Rules 2000.

As such, she said the question of unfair discrimination under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution did not arise.

“Based on the affidavit, there is not enough evidence to find unfair discrimination or element of intentional discrimination. So it is difficult for the court to establish mala fide,” Justice Alizatul said.

She said CVLB’s decision went against Section 19 of the Act, which stated that a specific fare must be imposed for a specific class of public service vehicles licence.

In this case, she said, it referred to stage buses. “The law does not allow you to discriminate within the same class,” she said in her ruling yesterday.

Metrobus, which was represented by Wong Kian Kheong, also wanted the court to compel CVLB and the Government to enforce on RapidKL the same rates for stage buses as stated in the CVLB Rules 2000.

However, Justice Alizatul ruled it was unnecessary to issue an order as the court’s declaratory judgment was sufficient.

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