Thursday, September 4, 2008

Govt offers 2,000 permits and subsidised diesel to avert balik kampung travel crisis

PETALING JAYA: It is still uncertain whether all of the 2,000 temporary bus permits will be taken up despite the Government’s latest diesel subsidy offer to bus operators.

Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association president Datuk Ashfar Ali said he could not comment on whether school, factory and charter bus operators would lease out their buses, even with the subsidised diesel allocation.

Bus rush: An official of a bus company at the Hentian Putra bus terminal in Kuala Lumpur making a ‘time out’ sign with his hands as he tries to control the crowd rushing to buy bus tickets yesterday to balik kampung during the coming Hari Raya festive period. — AZMAN GHANI / The Star

“Some are willing to take on shorter routes while others are not willing at all,” he said.

He said he would have to study the details of the move announced by Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Samad before commenting further.

Some 1,900 temporary licences were issued to school, factory and charter buses last year to cope with the Hari Raya crowd, but this year, there had been few takers so far despite the Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Minister Datuk Noh Omar setting aside 2,000 temporary permits.

Today, Noh is meeting with bus operators in Kuala Lumpur to resolve this looming crisis that could leave tens of thousands of people who travel by bus back to their hometowns to celebrate the Hari Raya Aidilfitri in a quandary.

Bus operators had earlier said that it was “not economically feasible” to lease school, factory and charter buses, as the costs of operations were high.

Ashfar, prior to government's announcment assured there would be 300 to 400 extra buses to cater to the balik kampung crowd, but it was insufficient to meet the demand.

“Usually, we have about 21% extra buses to fill in for buses that are undergoing maintenance. We roll out all of them during festive periods,” said Ashfar.

It is learnt that many express bus operators were previously unhappy that they are only receiving between 4,000 and 5,000 litres of subsidised diesel per bus on average.

By Teh Eng Hock - The Star 4 September 2008

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