Bus operators appeal for govt aid

Cutting down the number of passengers for each bus to enable social distancing will lower the operators’ revenues

by NUR HANANI AZMAN/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

STAGE and express bus operators throughout Malaysia are appealing for government support after being seriously impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and various stages of the Movement Control Order.

The Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association (PMBOA) president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali said many bus operators have been operating at losses and are just keeping their heads above water these past few months.

He said while there are many incentives and programmes by the government to help other industries, bus operators feel that they are being ignored.

“We have sent an appeal to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong to seek a meeting to discuss issues affecting the industry on May 18, but there has been no response from him to date.

“The express bus fare structure needs to be liberalised and integrated with the social-distancing order, as well as taking into account the demand and supply factor based on the level of service provided,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Mohamad Ashfar highlighted that price for a return flight ticket to Kota Baru, Kelantan, has already reached RM500.

“Why can’t bus fares be increased too? Bus fares have not been increased since 2009 despite rising operating costs,” he added.

He said cutting down the number of passengers for each bus to enable social distancing will further reduce revenues and thus affect the cashflow of bus operators. “We are not seeing any demand despite the government’s decision to allow the resumption of domestic travel. Who wants to run a business but end up losing more money?”

“Those who operate have to continue paying for salaries, fuel, maintenance, spare parts and so on, to serve the public. These have caused serious financial constraints to bus operators,” he said.

There are currently 120 bus companies registered with PMBOA.

The confidence of bus users will also be affected, Mohamad Ashfar added, estimating between six and 12 months for them to be confident again to use bus services.

“Although we are committed to continue operating our services, the dire situation that bus operators have been facing for the past 10 to 12 years has been compounded.

“The severe repercussions of Covid-19 have made it impossible for bus operators to continue providing their services without any government assistance,” he explained.

Mohamad Ashfar also said many stage bus operators have not received the Interim Stage Bus Support Fund and Stage Bus Service Transformation payments for many months.

“We request that all pending payments be made to help bus operators with payments of wages and rental,” he said.

PMBOA also urged the authority to stop the issuance of new bus licences solely to preserve the current status quo of the bus transport industry.

Any influx of new players in the bus industry, which is “slowly dying”, will only wreak havoc in the bus industry, the association noted.