PUTRAJAYA, July 29 — The government has agreed to raise fares for express and stage buses, but not up to 100 per cent as proposed by the Pan Malaysia Bus Operators' Association (PMBOA).
Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Minister Datuk Noh Omar said the ministry had appointed a consultant to look into a suitable level of increase and the new bus fares would be announced before Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
"The study has been completed and we are now discussing the fare increase with the association," he told reporters after the presentation of the ministry's Excellent Service Award 2007 to recipients today.
Noh said the fare increase was unavoidable following the bus companies' higher operational costs, including the diesel price hike from 71 sen per litre to RM1.43 per litre since the last bus fare increase in 2005.
He said the higher operational costs were also due to the increase in the prices of tyres, engine oil, batteries and spare parts.
Yesterday, the PMBOA led by its president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali submitted a memorandum to the National Consultative Council on Inflation, chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, seeking a raise in bus fares by 100 per cent as demanded by the association in May.
Mohamad Ashfar said bus operators were all under pressure following the oil price hike and urged the government to act fast to enable them to operate as usual for the coming festive season.
On another development, Noh said the liberalisation system to separate economy-class buses from luxury buses would be implemented in two weeks whereby the government would control ticket prices for economy buses while the fares for luxury buses would be left to market forces.
"But we will ensure that bus companies allocate enough economy buses at all times so that commuters will not be inconvenienced by the shortage of such buses."
Noh also said his ministry would study the possibility of allowing school buses to be used for public transport in rural areas due to the poor bus service in these areas.
The problem was raised at the Meeting of Chief Ministers and Menteris Besar held here yesterday.
Noh said Mara had to spend RM3 million a year to provide rural bus services because other bus operators refused to do so as they felt such services were not profitable.
"There are about 20,000 school buses in the country, and the government is studying the relevant laws and regulations so that the function of the school buses can be expanded to include providing public transportation, while their use is limited during school holidays."
Noh said applications were still open to operators interested to provide mini bus services in rural areas where they could also use vans for such services.
"They need to apply to the ministry for a permit first to operate the service so that we can monitor it, especially in terms of safety," he added. — Bernama