Rapid Penang To Operate 140 Buses With Ramps

Wuan alerted me to the following piece of news in the New Straits Times Online just now. My first reaction was a cynical snicker. I have heard one too many tall tales from RapidKl, Rapid Penang, Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad and even the Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop regarding the accessible bus issue to know better and take news like this with a generous pinch of salt.

I checked around and none of my well-connected friends in Penang have seen the prototype of a Rapid Penang bus with the ramp installed yet. This is how it is in Malaysia. Stakeholders are not consulted on their needs and do not have a say in how these needs are being managed. RapidKL was deaf to the various comments on the prototype of accessible bus and went ahead to build similar buses with ramps and wheelchair locking devices that are neither functional nor safe to use.

Is this going to be another fiasco like RapidKL’s? Time will tell. Nevertheless, having been involved with these people, I am not too optimistic. How do you expect people who have very little understanding of what disabled people’s needs are to do the right things? But this is how things are being done in Malaysia. We spend money building amenities that are not functional and then spend money again to rectify the mistakes, or maybe not at all. Malaysia Boleh!

NST Online ยป Local News
Wheelchair ramps on buses

GEORGE TOWN: RapidPenang buses are set to be more disabled-friendly with the move to install wheelchair ramps on board its 140 new buses.

The installation of the wheelchair ramps is expected to be completed by early next year.

RapidPenang chief executive officer Azhar Ahmad said the disabled-friendly buses would be delivered in batches from March.

“The ramps will ensure that the disabled can commute on public transport,” said Azhar.

400 Non-Step Buses For Singapore

400 more Scania buses ordered: StarMotoring - 5 October, 2008
400 more Scania buses ordered: StarMotoring – 5 October 2008

SBS Transit, Singapore’s leading public transport company, has ordered another 400 Scania buses in addition to the 500 units ordered in 2007.

All the buses will have bodywork produced by Gemilang Coachworks in Malaysia. Deliveries will begin early next year.

The buses are of the no-step low-floor type for quick and fast boarding/disembarkation; as well as allowing full wheel-chair access.”

SBS Transit of Singapore announced in 2006 that they are pushing ahead with the plan to make all new public buses low floor and step-free for the convenience of senior citizens and wheelchair users. For that year alone, 150 new non-step buses would be rolled out. Now the bus company is ordering another 400 non-step low floor buses that will be delivered beginning early next year.

Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad (SPNB) of Malaysia rolled out 100 low-floor non step buses some time in mid-2007. Until now, wheelchair users are still unable to ride in those buses. The reasons being that most of the bus stops in Klang Valley are not suitable or are inaccessible. No effort has been put in liaise with the municipal councils and other related agencies to renovate all the 4000 bus stops in stages to make them accessible to wheelchair users and suitable for the buses to deploy the ramps.

The thing with Malaysia is that the Ministry of Transport has very little say in legislating land-based public transport. The Ministry of Entrepreneurial And Co-operative Development through the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board issues permits to public transport operators. The Ministry of Finance Inc. owns SPNB. SPNB is the asset owner of RapidKL and Rapid Penang’s buses. All in all, thirteen agencies are involved in one way or another in governing the industry. It is no wonder the public transportation system is such a havoc in Malaysia.

Warkah Buat Pak Lah

Dear Pak Lah,
I just saw in the news on tv that you made a surprise check on KTM Komuter and Kelana Jaya Line. You saw for yourself the problems that people are facing when using these two lines. Did you see any wheelchair user in the trains? Did you see any disabled person while you were waiting at the station? No? If 5% to 10% of the population is disabled, you should statistically see at least one disabled person out of every ten non-disabled people that you met at the train stations. Do you know why?

Come, let me tell you. It is very simple. The external built environment, the first step towards the liberty of wheelchair users, is full of barriers. There are no ramps to pedestrian walkways. Sometimes, there are no walkways at all. We have to risk life and limbs to go on the road to move from point to point and risk being hit by vehicles. There are also very few pedestrians crossing for us to cross the road safely.

The buses – no wheelchair user can get into one. Government-owned RapidKL and RapidPenang have promised to make their buses friendly to us. None are despite the repeated promises. We waited and waited. In the end, the supposedly wheelchair-friendly RapidKL buses that were shown to us had badly designed ramps and rickety wheelchair restraining system and very few bus stop that wheelchair users could get to. So no go there too.

Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said that only 50 disabled people have applied for the 10,000 jobs made available in the public sector. She also said that disabled people “cannot just expect us to knock on your doors and inform you about the opportunities.”

Truth be told dear Pak Lah, we do not expect Dr. Ng to come knocking on our doors one by one to inform us of job openings. No, she has more important things to accomplish than to do that. We know there are openings but how are we supposed to go to work when almost all the infrastructure in the country is hostile to disabled people. The built environment is against us. There is no public transport that we can take.

When disabled people cannot even access these two basic facilities safely and conveniently, how can we go to school to get an education and acquire the necessary qualifications to be gainfully employed? How can we go to workplaces when the same problems in the built environment and public transport still beset us?

Pak Lah, please listen to our heartfelt pleas. We have been marginalized for so long that our community have been left far behind as compared to the rest of the rakyat. Most of us are under-qualified, unemployed and dependent on our family or charity to survive. We feel so depressed sometimes thinking about the pathetic situation we are in now.

We want to be active participants in society and contribute meaningfully to nation-building. We want to lead a fulfilling and productive life. We are unable to because of these unresolved problems. Do you know how ridiculous it is that Datuk Sheikh Muzaphar could go to the International Space Station which is more than 300km away in outer space and come back safely while a wheelchair users like me cannot even get to KLCC from Pandan Perdana which is a mere 10km apart in distance using public transport?

Pak Lah, we beseech you to use all the power and resources within your means to correct this situation. Disabled people do not want to be still marginalized like this when Malaysia achieves developed nation status in 2020. I hope you will find that little spark of conscience in your heart to do what is right in this matter. I look forward to the day when Malaysia is a country with infrastructure that is inclusive and accessible to everyone. It is then that the government can say with a firm conviction that Malaysia is truly a masyarakat penyayang.

Thank you for your time.

Yours very sincerely,
Peter Tan
Wheelchair user of 24 years