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Public Transport in Ipoh: A Review

Cover Story

By A. Jeyaraj and Ili Aqilah
Pics by Luqman Hakim

Although Ipoh has grown in size covering 643sq.km with new commercial areas and suburban towns with a population of about 700,000, it still lags behind other cities in the country in terms of public amenities. Bus services in the city needs to be urgently overhauled so that it will be the choice mode of transport for the residents, as well as tourists arriving by bus, train and air.

Taxi service in the city is equally bad. Only kereta sewa (hired cars) is available and there are no metered taxis. Ipoh Echo went on a discovery tour on the availability of public transport including buses, taxis, Uber, Grab Car, motorised trishaw, trains and flights.

Priority needs to be given to Public Transport Integration in Ipoh

Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, former chairman, Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) has said “No country has ever climbed from low-income to middle- or high-income status without a significant and dynamic land public transport. Therefore, it is important for us now to give priority to public transport investment, rather than giving priority to building roads in the name of connectivity and relieving congestion.”

We have transport hubs in Amanjaya, Medan Kidd Bus Station, Railway Station and the airport and these hubs must be integrated. Medan Kidd is to be developed as Ipoh Sentral. When is this going to materialise or will it ever?

Town Buses

There are only two companies operating town buses and is dominated by one of them, myBAS services, which is elaborated below:

Perak Transit/myBAS

Perak Transit is an integrated operator of transport services and William Lai, Operations Manager said that they operate services to six routes within the city.

myBAS Ipoh is part of the Stage Bus Service Transformation (SBST) project introduced by SPAD and funded by the government. It is operated by Perak Transit. myBAS has 37 buses on the road and services 19 routes which are decided by SPAD, operating from 6am to 9pm at 30- and 60-minute intervals.

Perak Transit

Perak Roadways

Perak Roadways

The spokesperson for Perak Roadways said that he is a regular reader of Ipoh Echo and added that in spite of the paper highlighting the shortcomings of the public transport in Ipoh, little has been done. He is optimistic that the initiatives taken by SPAD would improve the public transport system. His company abides by SPAD requirements and serves a few routes.

SPAD Designates Bus Routes

I visited the SPAD office in UTC to get information on how they select the routes and was told that I should contact their Head Office. In spite of several attempts I was not able to talk to the person concerned and I then sent an email requesting how the bus routes in Ipoh were selected and whether discussions were held with the public. Most of the time myBAS is running empty or with only a few passengers. There is no bus service to several places including Kampung Manjoi, Lim Garden, Merdeka Garden and many more.

I received a standard reply from Hazimin Sulaiman, Manager, Media Relations Communications Division Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat [SPAD], saying, “myBAS’s new social routes for areas which were under-served, is designed to eliminate duplication of routes and ensure optimum coverage.

“Under this model, SPAD as the planning authority will be responsible for network planning, operating costs and will receive the fare box revenue. In return, operators will be paid a vehicle per km rate and must ensure commuters enjoy better service and connectivity.”

I wonder whether SPAD carried out any field study and survey before deciding on the routes in Ipoh. Decision makers are in Kuala Lumpur – AJ.

Shuttle Service between Railway Station and Medan Kidd

The taxi fare from the Railway Station to Medan Kidd bus depot which is about 300m away (a walkable distance) is RM15, which is a ridiculously high fare. Many passengers walk from Medan Kidd to the railway station carrying their bags and vice versa. A shuttle bus service should be introduced using the rear entrance of the railway station. The bus from Medan Kidd would only go on the roundabout and has to stop at one traffic light only before reaching the subway of the station at the rear. This could alleviate traffic jams at the front of the station and would encourage more passengers to use the rear entrance. A ramp at the centre of the stairs to enable passengers to roll their bags would be very convenient. Security guards must be stationed at the back entrance for safety.

This should be implemented immediately – AJ.

Commuters Comments

Chris Ng Chong Phee who wrote to Ipoh Echo on the status of the myBas service had this to say, “Although myBAS service was fully operational from September 2015 with increase of more trunk and feeder routes, it still failed to improve public transport to create a more integrated transportation system to the consumers in Ipoh, as there was no study of the routes due to poor management by Perak Transit operators. Also due to lack of proper study, there are often buses overlapping routes, with a few buses running the same routes with no passengers. Again, I had to wait for 45 minutes to take a bus from Tesco Extra Bercham to Medan Kidd.”

Taxis/Kereta Sewa

In Ipoh we do not have metered taxis, only Kereta Sewa (hired cars) and the drivers charge as they wish. There are a number of taxi associations and they face similar problems. Taxi drivers claim that they have unfair competition from Uber and Grab Car and there is no level playing field. Their business is badly affected. Taxi drivers complained that:

  • insurance cost is high
  • car has to be inspected every six months
  • must have Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operator’s licence
  • drivers must have regular medical check-ups
  • must have Kad Pemandu which costs RM5 per year
  • must register business with Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia  (SSM) which costs RM40 per year
  • must make rubber stamp for receipts
  • must be compliant with SPAD requirements.

Taxi Drivers at Railway Station

The drivers said their business is badly affected by e-hail taxi services. Previously they could earn RM120 by working from morning till evening. Now they have to work till midnight to earn the same amount. The fare to each destination is fixed and they have to pay 10 per cent service charge. They have to wait for more than two hours to get a customer. The government has stopped giving them free tyres. Out of 100 taxis registered with KTM only about 40 are operational. To be registered with KTM they have to pay a one-time fee of RM150.

Last Mile Connection

This service is operated by Koperasi Pekerja-Pekerja Melayu Keretapi Semanjung Malaysia Bhd at the railway station and passengers requiring taxis from the station must buy their coupons from this counter. The rates for various destinations are fixed by SPAD. The Koperasi takes 10 per cent commission on the fare.

Kinta Taxi Owners & Drivers Association

Low, chairman of the association said that there are more than 100 members, but only about half of them are active due to poor demand. The drivers operate mostly from shopping complexes and fix their own price. At one time it was difficult to rent Kereta Sewa due to shortage of cars, but now many cars are lying idle. Low feels the days of Kereta Sewa are numbered.

Ipoh Radio Taxi Service

Mdm Yong Ah Lam said that she took over the business from her brother who passed away three years ago. There are more than 70 taxis in service. She has a staff of five people who are disabled and the taxi drivers are old. She only charges the drivers RM5 per day. At times she has to use her own money to pay the salary of workers.

Mdm Yong said that her main problem is passengers calling two radio taxis at the same time. When her driver arrives at the site, the person would have left by the other taxi. Operation number: 05 2411388 / 2411753.

BK Satellite Cab

Spokesman for BK Satellite Cab informed that they operate under a cooperative and have more than 150 taxis and due to competition from e-hailing services, there is about 50 per cent drop in business and many taxis are not in service. The taxis charge RM1.25 per km and their taxis have a meter to read the mileage for each trip. Operation number: 05 2534188.

A New Taxi Wave: Uber and Grab

Although they arrived in Ipoh slightly later than Kuala Lumpur and Penang, both Uber and Grab have been gaining in popularity from locals and also tourists. The reason for this is probably owing to  the convenience they offer, unlike any other public transportation available in Ipoh. These two services work through smartphones where users need to download their app from App Store (for iPhone users) or Google Store (for Android users) for free.

In comparison, the e-hail taxis cost less to use than the previously mentioned ones above. For example, it costs roughly RM20 from Aeon Kinta City to Taman Meru before e-hail, but with Uber it costs around RM10 depending on the time of day (peak times are slightly higher).

Grab having just recently arrived in Ipoh, appears to be gaining acceptance and more people are using it.

Ipoh Echo reporter, Ili, said that based on personal experience she prefers using Uber as the car is more comfortable, the service is better and of course the rate is cheaper. Previously, Uber only accepted payment through credit or debit cards where the fare is automatically deducted on arrival but early last year saw Uber promoting cash transactions for those who prefer it that way. Waiting time to get a ride is around 5 to 10 mins.

Will this new form of taxis eliminate our usual cabs?

 

Flying from Ipoh

The newly upgraded Sultan Azlan Shah Airport has definitely made travelling overseas easier. Although more flights depart and arrive from KLIA or KLIA2, it is now easier to fly to and from Singapore and Johor with TigerAir and Firefly that will directly fly you from Ipoh to these two destinations. Malindo Air which used to fly to these two destinations now only flies to and from Johor Bahru. Although it may cost more, at least it will get you there quicker and you won’t have to deal with bad traffic especially during festive seasons.

KLIA and KLIA2 bound

Although Ipoh airport only serves very few destinations, Ipoh is still very accessible from KLIA and KLIA2 as shuttle bus services ply between them. One of the known Airport bus services in Ipoh is the YOYO by A-Bus Express Sdn Bhd where tickets can be purchased at Amanjaya Terminal Bus station or at their website www.yoyo.my. Another airport bus service available in Ipoh is the Star Shuttle bus by Utamagas Sdn Bhd. Similar to YOYO, Star Shuttle bus services provide services from Ipoh to and from KLIA and KLIA2 and tickets can be bought at Amanjaya Terminal Bus Station or online at www.starwira.com.

The Electric Train

Aside from cabs, buses and planes, we have to mention the quickest way to get to Kuala Lumpur from Ipoh which is via the Electric Train System (ETS) by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTM). Moving as fast as 160kph, ETS can take you to Kuala Lumpur from Ipoh in just 2 hours and 30 minutes. In addition to their service, early this year ETS introduced several new destinations where passengers can now get to Gemas (Negeri Sembilan) and Padang Besar; the border town located between the northern part of Perlis and Thailand’s Songkhla province.

Over the years, it has become evident that more and more Ipohites are opting for the ETS train to get to Kuala Lumpur, thanks to its speed and the facilities provided inside the train. There are toilets, F&B bar, LED television and in some models, a prayer room for those who need it.

Train tickets can be purchased either at KTMB Ipoh Train Station located at Jalan Panglima or via e-ticket at www.ktmb.com.my.

No More Excuses

With this lengthy list of public transportation in Ipoh, there are no more excuses to not explore the city that is Ipoh. As this year is Visit Perak Year, this is your opportunity to use all the public transportation to experience Ipoh like you never did before.

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