It’s bailout or bust, bus firms tell Govt

By Teh Eng Hock, The Star

PETALING JAYA: Hit by escalating cost of operations, stage bus operators nationwide have asked the Government to take over their businesses and liabilities.

Pan Malaysia Bus Operators Association president Datuk Ashfar Ali has sent a memorandum to Land Public Transport Commission (LPTC) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Syed Albar proposing that the Government buy over their assets.

In the document, which was made available to The Star, the association, which comprises members from 130 bus companies operating more than 3,200 buses, said the fares that they collect can no longer cover rising operational costs.

The stage buses ply about 80% of the routes outside the Klang Valley.

Syed Hamid, in his response, admitted that the issues raised were valid and promised to look at the memorandum before meeting the association for further discussions.

Ashfar said spiralling prices of fuel, spare parts and labour, as well as bus terminal fees, insurance premiums and vehicle replacement costs, had led to higher overheads.

“The Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board set the lifespan of a stage bus at 15 years. The cost of a non-air-conditioned bus has shot up from RM177,000 to RM262,000 over the past 10 years, while the price of an air-conditioned bus has gone up from RM237,000 previously to RM312,000.

“Stage bus operators are in critical condition. They are experiencing losses and may have to wind up at any time,” Ashfar said.

As such, he said the association was proposing that the Government bail out the companies from their debts by taking over their operations.

“The Government can buy over the companies together with the buses, routes and workers at a negotiable rate.

“Without prejudice, we propose that the Government use the same method that was applied when taking over Intrakota or Parkmay,” he said, adding that the Government had the experience to operate stage buses through government-linked companies such as RapidKL and RapidPenang and other agencies like Mara.

“The Government is no longer our proponent, but our competitor,” Ashfar said.

He said the problems faced by bus operators could not be resolved because there was no clear policy on the industry.

“Although LPTC announced that it would complete the transportation policy by September, many operators may not be able to hold on until then,” Ashfar said.

Syed Hamid said that while the issues raised were valid, the proposal seemed to be a quick-fix solution.

“This is a new proposal but I don’t think it will solve the problem.

Syed Hamid said LPTC was carrying out various studies on public transportation before releasing the master plan on public transportation.

Some 20 stage companies have closed shop in the past 15 years, including Chin Wah Omnibus, Sum Omnibus, Lian Hoe Omnibus, Foh Hup Omnibus, Len Omnibus, Penang Yellow Bus Co and Northern Malaysia Transport Co.