NST – February 22, 2007: State took us for a ride, say bus firms

State took us for a ride, say bus firms
22 Feb 2007
Adie Suri Zulkefli

GEORGE TOWN: After years of failing to buck up, bus companies in Penang are now pointing the finger at the state government for the messy public bus service on the island.

They have accused Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon’s administration of making them a scapegoat for the failure of the public transportation system here.

Bus company Milan Travel Sdn Bhd manager Lim Pheam Hock alleged that the state government washed its hands off the problem.

Lim’s buses ply the Pengkalan Weld-Bayan Baru route under the revamped system which took effect on April 1 last year.

“It knew our constraints but did nothing to help us.

“The state government was supposed to get a federal loan and help us upgrade our fleet but they are now going back on their word and telling the whole country that we are the culprits,” he said.

Lim said bus companies needed the loan badly as they were barely making a profit.

“We have absorbed much of the cost so that passengers can travel by paying a minimal fare.

“No one seems to appreciate this,” he added.

Lim said the company had invested in 20 additional buses to complement their existing 40 but it would now have to bear losses once RapidPenang took over the bus services on the island.

The bus companies in Penang will plan their next course of action at a meeting soon.

“We are the ones who have been taken for a ride all this while.

“However, everyone is now blaming us for failing to provide an efficient bus service,” KGN-Hin Bus Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Hamid Araby Md Salih said yesterday.

He said the state government had failed to live up to its promise of providing financial assistance to bus companies in Penang to upgrade their fleet of vehicles.

Hamid and Lim were commenting on the announcement that the public bus service in Penang would soon be managed by RapidPenang, under the Ministry of Finance Incorporated.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had announced on Monday that the government had agreed to appoint the company following an appeal from the state government.

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Rapid Penang will make its competition buck up
23 Feb 2007
Sharanjit Singh

BALIK PULAU, FRI.: Public bus companies in Penang have been told to stop whining and improve their performance if they want to remain in business once Rapid Penang starts its own service.

The bus firms were told that while the government had no intention to revoke their licences, they will need to buck up and compete with Rapid Penang.

Finance Ministry parliamentary secretary, Datuk Seri Hilmi Yahaya, said all the companies will be allowed to run and the ones that provide the best service will eventually attract the most passengers.

Hilmi said the bus companies in Penang had been given numerous chances to buck up but they failed to do so and continued to provide shoddy service. This caused people to complain and the State government was put in a spot.

“We tried to help them in many ways, including asking them to merge in order to remain competitive. However, they did not want to do so and their services continued to deteriorate,” he said, adding that the government could not allow the situation to go on.

He said passengers should be able to enjoy a reliable and efficient public transportation system once Rapid Penang comes into the picture.

Hilmi said Rapid Penang will ensure that all its bus drivers are trained and able to provide professional and courteous service.

Meanwhile, Bukit Bendera Member of Parliament Chia Kwang Chye said the establishment of Rapid Penang is the best solution to the woes of bus passengers.

“The State government has made a lot of effort to solve the problem of shoddy bus service. The Federal Government also realised the seriousness of the situation and decided to come in and help,” he said.

Hilmi and Chia were asked to comment on claims by bus firms in Penang that they should not be made scapegoats for the failure of the system.

They accused the State government of abandoning them when they needed financial assistance to improve services.

Their comments came following reports that public bus services will soon be managed by Rapid Penang, a company under the Ministry of Finance Incorporated. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced last Monday that the government had agreed on the company following an appeal by the State government.

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‘Stop whining and compete with RapidPenang’
24 Feb 2007
Sharanjit Singh

GEORGE TOWN: Penang public bus companies have been told to stop whining and improve their performance if they want to remain in business once RapidPenang starts its service.

The bus firms were told that while the government had no intention of revoking their licences, they will need to buck up and compete with RapidPenang.

Finance Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Seri Hilmi Yahaya said the companies would be allowed to run and it was a matter of survival of the fittest.

Hilmi said they had been given countless chances to buck up but continued to provide shoddy service.

“We tried to help them in many ways, including asking them to merge in order to remain competitive. However, they refused and the services continued to deteriorate.”

He said passengers should be able to enjoy a reliable and efficient public transportation system once RapidPenang comes into the picture.

Hilmi said RapidPenang would ensure that all its drivers were trained and able to provide professional and courteous service.

Meanwhile, Bukit Bendera Member of Parliament Chia Kwang Chye said the establishment of RapidPenang was the best solution to the woes of bus passengers.

“The state government has made a lot of effort to solve the problem of shoddy bus service.

“The federal government also realised the enormity of the problem and had decided to help,” he said.

Hilmi and Chia were asked to comment on claims by bus firms in Penang that they should not be made scapegoats for the system’s failure.

They accused the state government of abandoning them when what they needed was financial assistance to improve their service.

Their comments came following reports that the public bus services would soon be managed by RapidPenang, a company under the Ministry of Finance Incorporated.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced on Monday that the government had agreed on the setting up of the company following an appeal by the state government.

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Bus companies are prepared to compete with RapidPenang
24 Feb 2007
Melissa Darlyne Chow

GEORGE TOWN, SAT.:
Bus companies that earlier blamed the State government for messing up the public transport system have made an about-turn and decided to embrace the new management under RapidPenang.

They said they would step up to the plate and compete with RapidPenang.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is that the public will benefit from better public bus services,” Milan Travel Sdn Bhd manager Lim Pheam Hock said, adding that healthy competition would enhance the overall delivery system.

Lim added that they are thankful the government has decided not to revoke their licences and that they will work with RapidPenang.

KGN-Hin Bus Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Hamid Araby Md Salih also said the public interest is their top priority.

“Healthy competition between RapidPenang and the State bus companies is good for the public.”

He added that he has no problem with the setting up of RapidPenang, but how well they perform remains to be seen.

“We will do our best to co-exist with RapidPenang and to provide better services,” he said.

Lim and Hamid were responding to Finance Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Seri Hilmi Yahaya’s comment that the State bus companies should stop whining and improve their performance if they want to remain in business after RapidPenang starts its service.

He said that while the government has no intention of revoking their licences, the bus companies need to buck up and compete with RapidPenang.

It was reported that the bus firms accused the State government of abandoning them when what they needed was financial assistance to improve their services.

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Nor Mohamed: Better bus service once Rapid Penang takes over
25 Feb 2007
By Sharanjit Singh

GEORGE TOWN, SUN:
THE public transportation system in Penang is set to undergo a major transformation.
Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said people would start seeing a change for the better once Rapid Penang took over management of the bus service.

He said 150 new buses, purchased at a cost of about RM50 million, would hit the roads by August and passengers could look forward to an efficient and reliable service.
“I know the people in Penang have been craving for a comfortable ride and an efficient public bus service. They will get it once Rapid Penang starts managing the service soon,” he said after visiting the Penang Home for the Infirm and Aged at Green Lane here today.

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150 new RapidPenang buses to hit the roads
26 Feb 2007
Sharanjit Singh

GEORGE TOWN: The public transport system in Penang is set to undergo a major transformation.

Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said people would start seeing a change for the better once RapidPenang took over the management of the bus service.

He said 150 new buses, costing about RM50 million, would hit the roads by August and passengers could look forward to an efficient and reliable service.

“I know the people in Penang have been craving for a comfortable ride and an efficient public bus service.

“They will get it once RapidPenang starts managing the service,” he said after visiting the Penang Home for the Infirm and Aged at Green Lane here yesterday.

He presented RM10,000 in aid to the centre before visiting another old folks’ home at Sungai Dua, which also received RM10,000.

Nor Mohamed said the formation of RapidPenang was part of the government’s effort to fast-track development projects in Penang.

Earlier in the morning, Nor Mohamed discussed economic and related issues with Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Expressing satisfaction with the economic performance of Penang, Nor Mohamed said the federal and state governments had agreed that more emphasis should be given to the public transport system on the island.

On the existing bus firms, he reiterated that the government would not revoke their licences.

“They will just have to compete and those that provide the best service will get the passengers. One or two (companies) may not be happy, but we have to do what is good for Penang,” he said.

The state of the public buses had been constantly criticised by commuters and non-governmental organisations here for many years. Promises to improve the bus service remained unfulfilled.

However, commuters have been optimistic following the announcement that RapidPenang, a company under the Ministry of Finance Incorporated, would manage the buses.

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RapidKL’s record a boon for island
26 Feb 2007
P.J. GOMES, Petaling Jaya

THE proposal for Rangkaian Pengangkutan Integrasi Deras (RapidKL) to manage the bus service in Penang and the mainland should be applauded.

Its bus frequency, ticketing system, cleanliness of the fleet and disciplined and friendly staff get top marks for management.

Its expertise would definitely be useful to Penang, where I am positive the system will improve.

Bus lanes should be provided in high-traffic volume roads. Better weather-proof and user-friendly bus stops or terminals are essential.

If these are improved, then more people will leave their cars at home and opt for comfortable bus rides. The authorities should also take minibuses off the road.

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Syed Nadzri on Tuesday: RapidPenang for buses, but what about taxi woes?
27 Feb 2007
Syed Nadzri

PENANG’S public transport situation must have sunk to a new low for the state government to have to seek federal help in resolving the woes.

It was announced last week that RapidPenang, an offshoot of RapidKL, would operate a bus service by the middle of the year in the state following appeals by the chief minister for the government-owned company to help overcome the maligned public bus system on the island.

The problem appears to have reached an “unsolvable” level — even for matters as local and as basic as bus services — that has caused it to be referred to the federal government.

Which leaves us with this question: What has really gone wrong?

Penang used to have one of the most efficient bus services in the country.

Who could forget the ubiquitous municipal council buses that were the hallmark of Penang public transport. These “city council buses”, as they were called, plied to almost every nook and cranny of George Town.

They faithfully served the city routes while Hin Bus took the Tanjung Bunga route, Lim Seng Seng bus to Air Itam and Yellow Bus to Bayan Lepas and Balik Pulau.

It was so easy the last time, when you could trust bus No 6 to Green Lane, bus No 7 to Waterfall Gardens or bus No 3 to Jelutong. And the Victoria Street bus terminal, near the jetty, bustled with bus-a- minute departures and arrivals.

All these are gone. There have been many attempts at revamping the Penang bus system since but all have failed. So the big question is whether RapidPenang will make a difference and bring back the glory days of the city council buses.

It was announced on Sunday that 150 new buses, purchased at a cost of about RM50 million, would hit the road by August and passengers could look forward to an efficient and reliable service.

And while at it, the state government might as well appeal for federal help, too, in resolving problems concerning the island’s deplorable taxi services.

The taxi drivers have grown so stubborn that they have managed to resist all attempts to make them use the meter to determine fares.

The most logical thing to do now is for the state authorities to apply the same strategy as that of bus services — get companies from Kuala Lumpur to operate taxis in Penang and compel them to use the meter.

Then there will be more taxis on the road, which would in turn provide the present crop with the competition they deserve.

Of course, there will be protests and the same old resistance from the Penang taximen, using the same old tricks and political tactics.

But the message must be made clear to them: Whose welfare comes first — theirs or the public’s?

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Minion to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. Columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. Principal Trainer at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.