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Prasarana's bus tender process needs to be more open

The Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit (Transit) notes that public transport holding company Prasarana (Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad) has placed a tender announcement for the purchase of 400 chassis for new CKD (completely knocked-down) buses to be operated on by their subsidiary RapidKL Sdn Bhd.

The tender announcement read as follows:

‘Manufacture, supply, delivery, testing, commissioning, warranty, repair and maintenance of four hundred (400) units of twelve (12) metre completely knocked-down (CKD) diesel city buses for RapidKL’

At present, we do not know if the tender for 400 CKD buses (specifically for their chassis) is for an expansion of services or a replacement for some of the buses that were purchased for RapidKL between 2005-2009.

In any case, the timing of the tender is interesting, given the release of the Auditor-General's 2008 Report which found problems with the purchase of RapidKL buses in 2007-2008 that were of low quality.

We are also concerned because these low-quality buses were purchased to replace buses (operated by IntraKota) that were scrapped (left to rot?) by Prasarana in 2005-2006.

In addition, it appears that Scomi Coach Sdn Bhd quietly received a contract to refurbish some of the China-made buses. This issue was profiled by the local media , bloggers and even by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

According to a statement on Prasarana's website, these former IntraKota buses were incapable of being salvaged when they were turned over to Prasarana.

We at Transit expect that buses should be able to last at least 10-12 years without requiring significant maintenance or overhaul. The fact that Prasarana has sent buses less than five years old to the scrap heap already, and may do so again in the near future, is of great concern to us.

We also find it especially interesting that, according to an industry source, the tender was actually called earlier this year (we do not know which company was successful) and the tender announcement last week is actually a 'surprise' re-tender!

In light of the Auditor-General's 2008 Report, the concerns about the procurement of buses and bus depots, issues with the interior design of the RapidKL buses, and the announcement of the 2010 budget, the Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit (Transit) calls on Prasarana to open up the tender process for greater scrutiny from the public, the Auditor-General's Office and interested ‘wakil rakyat’.

We also believe that it is vital to have feedback from public transport users on the design and interior features of buses. The end user must be consulted about seat design, handholds, accessibility features (including audio and visual announcements) and other features of the buses.