Bus operators urged to boost ridership, improve route lines

The Sarawak Bus Companies Association (SBCA)

KUCHING, Dec 9: The Sarawak Bus Companies Association (SBCA) has been urged to increase bus services frequency along existing routes, open new routes as well as to revive low response routes given the exponential growth of ridership for the RM1 Flat Rate Bus Fare Programme.

Minister of Transport Datuk Lee Kim Shin revealed that the bus service registered a total cumulative ridership of 814,958 people from May 2020 until October 2020 in Sarawak.

“The programme has received an overwhelming response from the public as exemplified by the increase in total ridership in Sarawak from 12,657 in the month of May to 206,470 in October.

“Again, I suggested to the bus owners that they could also open new routes as there are so many new residential areas being developed all over Kuching, Sibu and Miri.

“It is only through proactive action that there will be better and wider coverage of bus routes in the state,” he said in a statement today after holding a meeting with SBCA yesterday (Nov 8).

In Kuching, Lee shared that the ridership rose from 17,787 passengers in June to 65,291 passengers in October, while in Sibu (4,834 passengers in May to 76,895 passengers in October) and Miri (7,823 passengers in May to 64,284 passengers in October).

SBCA, he added, fully supported the programme and agreed it should continue as it benefited not only their bus operation but provided a financial cushion for the lower income group who relied heavily on public bus transport.

“SBCA is grateful to the state government and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg for introducing the initiative,” he said.

On the issues raised by SBCA during the meeting, Lee explained that most of them fell under the purview of the federal government such as the deferment of loan, hire purchase provided by credit company and the extension of the use of buses from 10 to 15 years in which new technology will help enormously to improve bus safety among others.

“We have examined and supported these requests and for that reason, I have written to the Federal Minister for Transport, YB Datuk Seri Ir Dr Wee Ka Siong to give due considerations to the requests made by SBCA especially during this very challenging times when the assault of Covid-19 pandemic on transport players is relentless,” he said.

However, Lee said he has yet to receive any replies but hopes to hear favourably from the Federal Minister in an effort to lighten the financial burden of the bus transport owners.

Ministry advisor Dr Lawrence Tseu, permanent secretary to the Ministry Datu Buckland Bangik, SBCA chairman Sazali Morshidi and its secretary William Chan, as well as representatives from Biaramas Express, Eva Express, Sungai Merah Bus Co., Lanang Road Bus, Teku Road Bus, Borneo Amalgamated Transport Co., City Public Link Bus Service and Miri Transport Co., were present.

Lee (seated centre) in a photo with SBCA members after the meeting.