Bus operators hopeful for govt’s assistance

by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association (PMBOA) is hopeful that its appeal to the government for a special one-off grant for express bus operators will be met to ensure the industry’s survival.

Its president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali told The Malaysian Reserve recently that he sent the appeal last week on April 7 and has met with the Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong on the following day to discuss issues related to the country’s bus industry.

“The minister’s response was positive. He said he will take this matter up to the Cabinet and then the Finance Ministry,” he said.

Mohamad Ashfar said PMBOA had suggested the special one-off grant to be given to express bus operators based on the number of buses owned by each company that was operating as at March 18, 2020, the date of the country’s first Movement Control Order (MCO).

Payment would be made only to active express buses with valid operator licence, road tax and Puspakom certificate.

“Estimated cost of repairs and safety checks by operators per vehicle before allowing the buses to be on the road again is about RM15,940 per bus.

“We requested for 70% of the said cost of RM15,940 as the special one-off grant per bus, which amounts to RM 11,158 per bus,” he said.

He added that the total financial assistance for the industry is estimated to be about RM46 million which will greatly benefit about 200 express bus operators operating about 4,200 buses in Malaysia. While some industries have started to recover with assistance from the government, tourism and tourism-related industries are predicted to be the last to recover.

Within the tourism industry, transportation via express buses is among the most affected as its users are mainly foreign and local tourists, students, workers, government servants and families travelling in a group.

Mohamad Ashfar said since the start of the MCO last year, the passenger load for express buses has decreased drastically with zero loading on most occasions.

However, when the companies do operate, he said the ridership is extremely low with turnover being less than 10% of the previous year due to the rakyat being advised to stay at home, fear of being infected with Covid-19 when on board the bus, and hefty fines for violating the standard operating procedures.

Other reasons he listed include the interstate travel ban, zero arrival of foreign tourists due to closure of international borders, and closure of preschools, schools and higher education institutions.

He highlighted that transportation via express bus plays a major role in the influence of the international, cultural, tourist and business capital of a country, adding that companies in the express bus industry are heavily impacted by the measures taken to combat the spread of Covid-19.

He also noted that stage bus companies in the transport industry had received government assistance through the Stage Bus Service Transformation and Interim Stage Bus Support Fund programmes, but not the express bus companies.

“Business are in fact almost at a standstill, without assistance from the government, most if not all express bus operators will have to call it a day,” he added.