On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Bus commuters let down by poor service

Complaints of the bus companies  serving only profitable routes are  growing.

MP for Senai Datuk Lim Si Cheng  cited
the case of a bus commuter  from
Damansara Utama taking  more than two
hours to reach Puduraya.

“He had to wait a long time for  the
bus. The trip to the city centre  took
about the same time as the  journey to
Johor Baru, where the  commuter wanted to
go,'' Lim told  the Dewan Rakyat last

Among the many commuters who  called or
wrote in to The Star were  Jill Ling of
Taman Megah in Petaling Jaya and her seven friends.

“The economic downturn has  been tough
on wage-earners, but  over the past three
weeks our quality of life has been going downhill  because of the bus service.

“Through no fault of ours, we  have had
to wake up earlier to get  to work and it
takes longer to return home.

“What used to be a 45-minute  journey
now takes almost two  hours,'' wrote
Ling, who takes the  No.28 Intrakota bus
to work.

Noting the hours of unproductivity spent waiting for a bus, she  fears the consequences of turning  up late for work.

Ling and friends had erroneously 
addressed a copy of the letter to 
the Transport Ministry. It is not the 
Transport Ministry but the Entrepreneur Development Ministry  that is responsible for the issuing  of permits to bus and taxi operators.

The purview of the Commercial  Vehicles
Licensing Board comes  under minister
Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, and the board has the power to issue or revoke the
licenses of  bus and taxi

Mustapa is aware of the grouses  of city
folk and has issued several  warnings to the
two bus companies.

Fed up with bearing the brunt of  public
anger, Intrakota complained  that it has
been losing RM2.5mil a  month.

At one point, its managing director Mohyee Wardy pointed out that  Intrakota was not a welfare body.

Commuters cannot deny that the  concept
of bringing in Intrakota  was a good
move. Its air-conditioned buses and well-dressed drivers  made travelling more pleasant.

But it has some short-comings, 
especially frequency. Its big buses 
can take 100 passengers each compared to 30 for a mini-bus  but the 
mini-buses had better frequency.

Still, companies which have taken over public service-oriented  jobs must be prepared for criticism  from the people.

Privatisation was introduced to  improve
efficiency but if these  companies cannot
perform, then  they are not offering
better service.

>From the outset, they should accept the fact that profitability is  not always possible in some areas.

Cross-subsidy will have to be  part of
the package, as in the case  of
developers who reluctantly build 
low-cost houses.

For Intrakota, it means it cannot  refuse
to service routes which it  perceives as
less profitable. Its duties are crucial because it services  the nation's capital.

Although there are two other bus 
companies in the Klang Valley, Intrakota and Park May have bigger  stakes.

These bus operators cannot claim  that
they were not given enough  time to
prepare for the phasing out  of

One way out of this rot is competition. If necessary, more bus permits should
be given out.

At the same time, enforcement  has to be
stepped up. Laws and  warnings come to
nought if they  are merely for

The light rail transport is part of  the
city's plan to improve public 
transportation but with the economic slowdown, there are fears  that the project may be delayed.

The fastest and cheapest option  at this
point is bus transportation.

With thousands of local and foreign tourists converging on Kuala  Lumpur for the Commonwealth  Games, the last impression we  want to give is bad service.

All companies, big or small, must  learn
to be efficient  and remember that they
exist because of the  customer.

The king of the road should not  be the
big business which controls  the city
buses but Joe Rakyat who  pays for the