Najib also said that the Transport Ministry was taking steps to address complaints by the disabled community that RapidKL and Rapid Penang buses were not disabled-friendly despite their earlier appeals.
The Star – Thursday August 9, 2007: New, bigger LCCT to be built
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s statement concerning RapidKL and RapidPenang is most welcomed. However, nasi sudah jadi bubur. It is good if the Ministry of Transport make good the statement by Dato’ Seri Najib but I should not be faulted for being cynical. Despite assurances by Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop in the press on March 18, 2007 that RapidPenang’s buses will be “disabled friendly” none were. On top of that RapidKL Chief Operating Officer Mohd. Ali Mohd. Nor informed the Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) during a meeting on March 10 that the 150 buses for RapidPenang would be accessible to wheelchair users which obviously was misleading.
Retrofiting the buses already running on the roads in Penang is going to cost a lot more as compared to bringing in non-step buses in the beginning. The reason for not acquiring non-step buses for RapidPenang was given by Penang State Traffic Management Committee Chairman Dato’ Dr. Teng Hock Nan on April 26. He was reported by The Star in Buses for disabled later to have said, “The state government will bring in buses equipped with facilities for wheelchair passengers once the new RapidPenang bus system is running smoothly” because “buses with facilities for wheelchair passengers would have to stop longer for boarding and could disrupt arrival schedules.” I wrote an entry to rebut his baseless and discriminatory statement.
As for RapidKL, 100 non-step buses that they brought in were fitted with ramps and wheelchair docking systems without consultation with disabled persons on whether the fittings would be functional and safe. When BEAT viewed the buses for the first time after they were fitted, we informed Mohd. Ali Mohd. Nor that the ramps were too short and were poorly designed. In later meetings with RapidKL Corporate Communications Division Senior Manager Katherine Chew we were told that the fittings were of international standards. When questioned further what international standards were used, we were told on one occasion that it was the Swedish standards and another occasion the Australian standards. Whatever standards that were used, they certainly did not meet Malaysian disabled persons’ standards as the ramps and docking systems were neither safe nor functional. The accessible buses were to be launched on June 1 has been postponed indefinitely because of those concerns raised by BEAT.
In a meeting on May 25 chaired by the Timbalan Ketua Setiausaha (Perancangan) Kementerian Pengangkutan Malaysia Datuk Long See Wool regarding accessibility in public transport initiated by Minister of Transport Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy, BEAT was informed that RapidKL buses do not come under the Ministry of Transport. The Ministry of Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development are responsible for issuing licenses to buses and taxis. Therefore Datuk Seri Najib’s statement that “the Transport Ministry was taking steps to address complaints by the disabled community that RapidKL and Rapid Penang buses were not disabled-friendly despite their earlier appeals” came as a surprise. Which ministry exactly is in-charge of RapidKL? I would also like to know what steps the Ministry of Transport are taking to enable disabled persons, especially wheelchair users, to use public transport. Why was this issue not addressed at the planning stages of RapidPenang especially when BEAT had already handed a recommendation to Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy on March 12? The following is an extract from the recommendation:
Pengangkutan Awam Di Pulau Pinang
BEAT mengalu-alukan pengumuman oleh Perdana Menteri pada 20 Februari 2007 bahawa Rapid KL akan menubuhkan satu rangakaian bas awam di Pulau Pinang yang diberi nama RapidPenang. Kami berharap RapidPenang tidak membuat kesilapan sama seperti di Lembah Klang di mana keseluruhan perkhidmatan bas awam adalah tidak mudahcapai dan tidak mesra OKU.
Kami berharap Kementerian Pengangkutan bekerjasama dengan Kementerian Kewangan dan mana-mana kementerian lain yang berkenaan untuk mendapatkan bas non-step untuk kesemua 150 buah bas yang dibeli kelak. Golongan OKU tidak seharusnya menderita disebabkan oleh kesilapan sesetengah pihak yang tidak mengambil kira keperluan OKU dan mereka yang mengalami kesulitan pergerakan yang ingin menggunakan perkhidmatan bas awam.
Pada masa yang sama, rancangan rel bandaraya Pulau Pinang yang telah diluluskan mesti mudahcapai kesuluruhannya apabila beroperasi nanti. Tidak ada sebab yang munasabah mengapa golongan OKU disisihkan lagi dalam projek ini yang sepatutnya memanfaatkan semua lapisan masyarakat.
Dalam pada itu, kami menyeru Kementerian Pengangkutan, Kementerian Kewangan, Rapid KL, RapidPenang dan mana-mana pihak yang mewakili pengurusan projek tersebut untuk berbincang dengan pihak-pihak yang mempunyai kepentingan (stakeholders) dalam perkhidmatan bas awam di Pulau Pinang, khususnya pengguna-pengguna bas dan pertubuhan-pertubuhan OKU untuk menyelami keperluan mereka serta mendapatkan maklumbalas dan keperluan mereka dalam pembangunan yang terbaru ini.
I rest my case.