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KUCHIHG, Dec 12: Being the first city in the country to have three hydrogen-powered buses on the road will not improve Kuching’s public bus service, said Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen.
Responding to the announcement by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg that three such buses from China will arrive in Kuching by July next year, Chong said the purchase of such eco-friendly buses is simply not pragmatic.
“What is the use of having a few hydrogen-powered buses when pubic transport in Kuching is literally non-existent, inefficient, and terrible,” he told reporters.
Chong said improving public bus services is the foremost important task, and what needed to be done is to revamp the whole system.
“Take over private bus companies and increase the number of buses by threefold. Provide free bus rides for the first three to five years to change commuting habits,” he said.
Chong, the state Pakatan Harapan chief and state DAP chairman, said the state government should listen to the plan proposed by his party and use public funds to run the bus service.
He explained that the important features of a public bus service are regularity (frequent bus services), punctuality, conformability and affordability.
With regards to the Stage Bus Service Transformation (SBST) programme which will kick-start next year, Chong said it would not work.
“As long as private companies are running it and are profit driven, it will not resolve the whole issue. It may cost even more,” he explained.
Citing the example of the Selangor state government, Chong said the state ruled by Pakatan Harapan provides 100 buses serving local residents for free and costs about RM20 million per year.
Kuching currently has only 100 buses; to increase the number of buses by threefold, and together with other expenses, it might cost about RM100 million per year which the Sarawak government can clearly afford, he said.
Chong, the Kota Sentosa state assemblyman, said it is important to provide free bus services at the beginning to change people’s commuting habits and it would eventually bring many benefits in the long run.
“(Those) using free public bus services can save on fuel, car installment, maintenance and car parking and save up to RM300 per month; it is a big sum for normal office workers,” he said. — DayakDaily