CommentaryOPINION

Taking Local Bus Concessionaires to Task

The State Public Transport Committee, of which I am a member, met on March 23. One of the key discussion points was the weaknesses and failures of local bus concessionaires in providing information to public transport users. The issues can be summarised as thus:

Lack of a comprehensive and integrated, easily accessible intra-city bus route map on neither the internet nor other off-line strategic places.

Absence of an integrated as well as a reliable bus timetable, allowing ease of understanding and access.

The absence of the above two on most/all bus stops.

Opposition lawmakers have, within and outside of the state assembly, raised the issue of accessibility of bus information and also reliability of service provided. But the calls have fallen on deaf ears. Neither the State Government have taken a strong position nor have the concessionaires themselves responded to the criticisms with corrective actions.

Consensus was reached within the committee that there was an urgent need to take to task bus concessionaires, especially those operating routes within the greater Ipoh area, to answer to the continued failures to meet expectations, despite repeated calls to improve and to buck up.

The committee resolved, announced by committee chairperson Dr Mah Hang Soon, who is the Executive Councillor for Transportation and publicised in the media, that bus concessionaires involved will be subpoenaed to answer and clarify their positions, and reasons behind their reluctance.

It has now been almost three months since the announcement to call the concessionaires to a hearing, the committee and taxpayers, whose rates and taxes subsidise these companies, have yet to see action taken by the state government.

On behalf of the long-suffering public, I call for the following:

The state government to make its stand on why there is yet to be any action taken to ensure bus concessionaires meet both contractual and public service obligations of providing something as simple as a bus timetable on the internet at strategic websites and at all bus stations.

The committee, with the mandate it possesses, demand that corrective actions be taken to address the above issues within four weeks; with failure to satisfy resulting in the withdrawal of all state-borne subsidies.

The committee be convened after the one-month period stipulated in point 2, with all the bus concessionaires be called to the meeting where a public hearing will be conducted. Invitation and notice must be sent out at once to avoid absence by any relevant parties.

The committee appoints, with the funding it is allocated, an independent research body (non-civil service) to carry out a quantitative and qualitative survey of current levels of satisfaction towards public transport, and ascertain facts and sentiments of existing, as well as potential public transport (especially bus) users in Ipoh.

That the same body proposed in point 4, or another relevant entity, or both be charged to ascertain the ‘informational demands’ and establish an information communication strategy and its implementation plan, working closely with the committee, SPAD, as well as the bus concessionaires.

That the same body be charged to act as a ‘mystery shopper’, or anonymous service auditor to measure the success or failure of the bus concessionaires in delivering a pre-determined set of benchmarks deliberated and agreed by the committee.

The above is the position taken by the PR representatives on the State Transport Committee.

Howard Lee
(Adun for Pasir Pinji)

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