By Wendy John
SIBU, Jan 20: The cashless payment system will only be practical for buses in the state in another five years, not now.
Sarawak Bus Transport Company Association advisor Lau Khing Seng said today that the federal government should understand the situation in the state first before asking bus companies to go cashless.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke on Jan 16 in Ipoh was reported as saying all bus operators would be required to use a cashless payment system before they receive the subsidy.
“We will give them some time to make the changes. If they fail to do so, we will review the subsidy agreement,” he was quoted as saying.
Lau in responding to the minister said the scenario in the state is totally different from West Malaysia and thus the system is either not practical or could only be implemented after five years.
“The majority of people using buses in the state are mostly the poor and the elderly including those from the rural area,” he said.
Lau who had been in the bus transportation business for 33 years said these groups of people are not tech savvy and thus it would be a disaster to ask them to go cashless.
“The right way for them is to continue paying bus fare by cash,” he said, adding that if the ministry fully enforced the system, bus operators would suffer as the subsidy would be removed from them.
The business operating expenditure is already very high and without the subsidy, he feared that some operators might have to reduce the number of buses on the road.
“The monthly petrol bill for each bus is RM5,000 to RM6,000. Remember that we have to pay for staff salary, maintenance of the bus, road tax, and tyres. Every operator has been struggling to stay afloat as business has dwindled by 30 to 40 per cent these past few years due to people using e-hailing services and also illegal taxis,” he said.
There are about 12 bus operators in the state: three each in Sibu and Miri, five in Kuching and one in Sarikei.
Lau said even in countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, cash is still king when it comes to paying bus fares as their governments did not make it mandatory for operators to go cashless.
Separately, on solving traffic congestion in the city centre, he suggested that the government implement the free bus service through bus operators for two years first.
“This can be done by giving bus transportation card of RM30 each to the aforesaid commuters and RM50 card to the youths. This will encourage the public to take public transport instead of driving on their own to the city. When this can be done, the cashless system can come in place possibly in five years’ time,” he said. — DayakDaily