Get Penang bus transport right this time please

Joachim F Xavier

Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

I refer the recent statement by Dr Teng Hock Nam, state local government, traffic management, information and community relations committee chairman that the state owned company, Bus Negeri Pulau Pinang (BNPP) is purchasing 150 buses for Penang. This is good news and I am happy that finally things are beginning to happen.

Nevertheless, it is imperative that the state government does not repeat the mistakes of the past that have caused so much misery to countless Penangites who use public transport to get around everyday. The first mistake they must avoid is to continue to allow the current batch of bus operators to operate in the state. The litany of offences that these operators have committed (and are continuing to commit everyday!) are a testimony to why they should not be allowed to operate any longer.

Despite the public outcry, the state government gave them a 'second chance' under the revamp exercise in April only to be proven six months later that the state had made big blunder. I hope the state has now no intention of giving them a third chance. The next mistake I hope the state would not repeat is to purchase buses which are not friendly to differently abled people and senior citizens. The current batch of buses are not only in dangerously bad shape but also not friendly to these people.

Rapid KL had recently come under fire for buying new buses which were not disabled friendly. If we are to be regarded as a nation that truly cares, we must display a resolve that takes into account the needs of people with special needs. The last thing we need now is recycled ex-express buses with multiple steps and narrow aisle.

Next, the state government must also to come up with a comprehensive plan as to how they intend to monitor the performance of the new bus operators. Forget the Commercial Vehicles Licencing Board. They have proven that they cannot get the job done and have admitted that there are shorthanded. Despite promises by Teng Hock Nam at the onset of the April revamp, enforcement was so lacking that all of us who believed his promises later looked like a bunch of April's Fools.

Penangites have been very patient for 20 years now, waiting earnestly for the state to get its act together and arrest the rotting public transport in Penang. Now that some light can be seen at the end of the tunnel, the state government better think through all its plans and get it right this time around without any more excuses or delays. Penangites are watching very closely and they are not about to give anyone any more chances whether it is the state government, BNPP or any other bus operator.