MCO: Bus companies don’t see any upside in running services

The deserted Sibu bus terminal.

SIBU, April 16: Sarawak Bus Transport Company Association chairman Lau Khing Seng does not foresee demand for bus services picking up any time soon, even if bus companies are permitted to operate during the third phase of movement control order (MCO).

It was reported recently that land, water and air transportation services are included under the expanded list of essential services during the said phase of the MCO

“If the report is true that we are allowed to start operating again after shutting down our services on March 21, we all will not be excited.

“If our buses can hit the road now, we will be carrying empty chairs only. What I mean here is that we will not have passengers as people are not working due to the shutting down of offices and factories,” Lau revealed, adding that there were only between two to four passengers per bus even before the bus companies stopped operating on March 21.

The first phase of the MCO came into effect on March 18.

Lau who has more than 40 years in this line of business, opined that now is the worst time for bus service providers to operate.

He disclosed passenger load has declined drastically since people are staying home to contain the spread of Covid-19. Thus, the bus companies will be incurring greater losses if they operate at this time with zero income, with fuel costs alone amounting to between RM5,000 to RM6,000 a month.

“During this MCO period we have zero income but we still have to pay for bus insurance, staff salary, bus terminal rental and staff room rental. This amounts to RM200,000 a month,” he highlighted.

Lau revealed this is the first time the bus service providers have had to stop operating since bus services were set up in the state 60 years ago.

He expects that the said operators will continue to feel the bite caused by the MCO for the next six months.

Lau proposed the government follow Singapore, Australia and Canada by providing government subsidies for employees across the board.

“In Singapore, their government is subsidising 75 per cent of employees’ salary. Here there are different amounts of RM800, RM1,200 and RM1,600 depending on the number of our workforce,” he added.

Under the current arrangement, local companies still need to pay RM1,800 to their employees if the latter’s salary is RM3,000.

“An across the board subsidy of 75 per cent is a win-win situation for the government and companies which are experiencing a sharp drop in business during this period,” he opined. — DayakDaily