By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
The newly-opened Ipoh bus terminal in Meru Jaya has many distinctions balanced on both ends of the social spectrum. Without doubt it is spacious, modern and pleasant, as most would want it to be. Chic and comfort alone will not endear it to the public when accessibility is problematic. That seems to be the case with this multi-million-ringgit facility located next to the Mydin Hypermarket in Meru.
Most Ipohites are unsure of its usefulness believing it to be another monstrous white elephant in the same league as Medan Kidd and Medan Gopeng. Ipoh’s dalliances with transport terminals or hubs, especially the ones that cater to the needs of the suffering public, never seem to work. The closest it ever came to concocting the right formula was Medan Kidd. In spite of its negativities, Medan Kidd still ranks the best in the city’s attempts at establishing something close to being a transport hub, in the true sense of the word.
Medan Kidd was ideally located. It had within its confines the city bus station, the inter-state bus terminal and the railway station. Commuters from outside of Ipoh could hop into a feeder bus for a short trip home or jump into a coach or a train for a connecting journey elsewhere. There was even a bus to take them to the airport although this entailed a much longer wait, as planes were infrequent.
Few complained as the services and facilities provided were good though they might not have been the best. We had what it took to make Ipohites proud, for a moment at least. Things changed when the inter-state bus terminal was relocated to Medan Gopeng in the late 1990s. Medan Gopeng was built for a reason – to satisfy the needs of a growing Bumiputra business class. But the design and layout of Medan Gopeng are flawed. Traffic congestion caused by human greed and insensitivity turned Medan Gopeng into what it is today, a grotesque facility for the physically and mentally challenged.
On Thursday, October 18, members from ten non-governmental organisations, led by the President of the Perak Tourism Association (PTA), Haji Odzman Abd Kadir, visited the Amanjaya Bus Terminal in Meru Raya. The visit was to appraise the suitability of the facility vis-à-vis tourist arrivals. Being bona fide Ipohites, they were equally concerned with the role it plays in the overall scheme of things.
The entourage was briefed on site by the Executive Chairman of the Combined Bus Services Sdn Bhd, Mohammad Mat Isa. He stressed the benefits of the terminal, as was expected. “Since its opening on October 1, we have encountered several problems relating to both commuters and bus operators,” he said.
One major hitch which will affect commuters in a big way is the shuttle service. Shuttle service to the city is available from 6am to 9pm and may be extended to 12 midnight, if necessary. What is required, however, is a 24-hour service, one which is hassle-free.
“We’re working hard on it. However, taxi service is available at all hours,” he remarked. The one problem which commuters find hard to stomach is the atrocious fare these taxis charge. A 10-kilometre one-way trip from the terminal costs anything between RM12 to RM15, depending on the time of the day.
The introduction of coupon-ed taxis, like they do at KLIA and KL Sentral, is the only way out but it requires the blessing of the federal agency, SPAD (Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat). “We’ll resolve this in due time,” said Mohammed.
Exorbitant taxi fares aside, the terminal’s accessibility will definitely have a dampening effect on commuters. If someone has to change buses three times and burn a hole in his pocket to get to his house in Buntong, he will think twice about stopping at Ipoh’s gleaming Terminal Bas Amanjaya. That is the truth of the matter.