November 29, 2018
By Shahrim Tamrin
THERE is every possibility that express bus companies would have the freedom to offer the type of ‘Premium Airline” level of service with unregulated fare or ‘AirAsia’ type of service and budget tariff.
In other words, there will be no fare ceiling for long haul bus services in the next 13 months.
Fare liberalisation is certainly on the horizon for the express bus industry by 2020.
However, before the bus operators jump for joy or consumers express annoyance in response to potential fare hike, the keywords for this possibility are – safety compliance and accountability.
“Only those with serious commitment towards safety and sustain the (safety) standard over a period of time will enjoy the fare liberalisation,” said an official with Transport Ministry.
Underlining the report by Recommendation Review Panel (RRP) of the Genting bus tragedy submitted to Transport Minister Anthony Loke last week, is a bigger picture for the express bus industry in the future.
The Mole understands that the Transport Ministry is willing to accommodate the request by express bus operators to deregulate the fare provided they comply with the proposed Malaysian Bus Star Rating (MBSR) or Safety Star Grading (SSG) system.
Based on the recommendation by Review Panel members, SSG programme under the purview of Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) will be introduced across the industry next year and to be made compulsory by 2020.
“From time to time, not all bus operators will enjoy the fare deregulation,” the source said, adding that those with poor grading would still be subject to regulated fares.
At present, only 20 bus operators have participated voluntarily in the SSG programme introduced since 2013. Currently, there are over 200 express bus operators in the Peninsular.
“We are using carrot and stick approach. We are going to tell the bus operators, ‘You must achieve good safety rating before the government allows the liberalisation of fares’,” said the ministry’s official.
“Besides, this mechanism will create a market demand. It will give a sense of confidence to consumers. Public will be able to choose bus company based on the star grading system whether they want a bus company with good safety rating or those offering regulated fare and having poor (safety) grading,” the source added.
“The RRP report is one of the early steps to change the landscape of the business model and sustainability of bus industry in the country. The recommendation also stated that welfare of the drivers must be improved,” said an RRP member.
On Tuesday, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar told Dewan Rakyat that the ministry was mulling over an increase in the fares by 10 to 30 per cent.
He highlighted the low wages among express bus drivers that have forced many of them to work overtime, leading to safety being compromised.
“If the express bus service operator earns more, they can raise the drivers’ salaries and the drivers have better working conditions… we hope their service and quality will improve, leading to fewer crashes,” said Kamarudin, as reported by Malay Mail Online.
For the industry players, the requests to deregulate the fares have been submitted repeatedly to the previous government in the last seven years.
Yesterday, Loke has stated that the fare review would be discussed at the National Cost of Living Action Council meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
He assured that feedback from all stakeholders would be considered and the Cabinet would make the final decision.
It is learned that Transport Ministry and Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) will organise a Town hall session with express bus operators next month.