Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bus operators want 100 per cent increase in fares

KUALA LUMPUR: Roti canai and teh tarik prices are down. Hypermarkets are slashing food prices. And more importantly, fuel prices are still coming down.

But bus operators want a staggering 100 per cent increase in bus fares.

Pan Malaysia Bus Operators Association (PMBOA) president Datuk Mohd Ashfar Ali said they were willing to settle for a 70 per cent increase "if the government fulfils our conditions".

The conditions include slashing the price of subsidised diesel from RM1.43 per litre to RM1, fixing quotas of a maximum of 6,000 litres per month for stage buses and 9,000 litres for express buses monthly, and giving a monthly subsidy for stage buses that cover social and rural routes.

"The 30 per cent surcharge is nothing. Although global oil prices have come down, the price of everything else like spare parts, lubricants and wages have increased. The public will have to face reality," he said.
During the Hari Raya festive period, express and stage busses were allowed to impose a 30 per cent fare surcharge for one month between Sept 15 and Oct 15.

Ashfar slammed those who had criticised the surcharge as excessive.

"If they think they can operate buses at a lower prices, then let them take over. They are most welcome. Maybe they can get cheaper spare parts or even get workers working for free."

Konsortium Transnasional Bhd (KTB) executive director Tengku Hasmadi Tengku Hashim said bus companies had been losing millions since the last fare increase three years ago.

"Although the non-subsidised diesel price has dropped now, subsidised diesel price increased 120 per cent in 2005 and had remained at that price since. We have been suffering losses since then," he said.

"The diesel component is one-third of our operational costs. So a 120 per cent increase is about 40 per cent increase to our costs. The 30 per cent surcharge is not enough and there is still a 10 per cent loss."

Tengku Hasmadi said since 2005, prices of tyres shot up by 56 per cent, windshields 85 per cent, batteries 126 per cent and lubricants 160 per cent.

He said operators, even big ones, had to absorb these losses and said the government should allow for a fare increase or lower the price of subsidised diesel.

Last month, Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Minister Datuk Noh Omar said the surcharge would remain until a decision on a new rate for bus fares was made.

The recent reduction of fuel prices saw prices of most items reduced. Airlines around the world had, from last week, begun eliminating or cutting fuel surcharge.

Budget airline AirAsia Bhd has also removed the fuel surcharge on all its flights, effective Nov 12.

Fomca environmental desk manager S. Piarapakaran suggested the government should provide more subsidy to the public transportation sector to ensure the fare price hike was not excessive.

"The government might feel the pinch, but it's already a burden to eat three times a day. So, if the government is serious about helping the people, then it should solve the issue," he said.

He said bus operators should also learn to manage the subsidies better and buy quality products which could last longer.

Piarapakaran suggested that Malaysians use cooking oil for its public transportation sector, just as was being done in Austria.

"Instead of throwing the used oil into drains, our transport companies could use them. In fact, it is one of the most successful programme in Austria," he added.

The New Straits Times