|New buses, low fares and better service|
|Written by Administrator II|
|Sunday, 13 July 2008 15:30|
by Sharanjit Singh
The spotlight is now on bus company RapidPenang following the Federal Government’s decision to defer the Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) and monorail projects in Penang. RapidPenang CEO Azhar Ahmad tells SHARANJIT SINGH that his company is on track to provide ensuring the people of Penang get what has been promised to themQ: How is RapidPenang's relationship with the new state government?
A: People think just because we are a Federal Government-initiated company, the change in the state government will have implications on the services we provide.
This is not the case. We are a public transport provider and it is business as usual for us. We look forward to working closely with the state administration.
Q: What are the main challenges you face in getting more people to use public buses?
A: We have new, clean buses with the most reasonable fares of just RM1 to a maximum of RM3. And students, senior citizens and the underprivileged get a 50 per cent discount.
We need to change the mindset of the people so more will use our services.
On our part, we need to address the issue of frequency to have an efficient and reliable service. However, there are also external factors we face in achieving our aim.
There is the issue of enforcement where we need help for action to be taken against motorists who park at bus stops or block entrances at narrow roads, etc.
Q: How are the other bus companies dealing with RapidPenang's threat to their operations?
A: We have dealt with sabotage, our bus windows were shattered and our bus captains had to endure threats and also physical violence.
Q: What kind of improvements can people expect on your services?
A: We are going to have additional 200 buses serving many new routes on the island as well as the mainland.
We will also install the global positioning system in our buses to keep track of them.
Q: How many people are actually using buses as a means of transportation in Penang?
A: We had an average of one million people using our buses monthly when we started but it has now jumped to 1.4 million.
This is low compared to Penang's population of 1.6 million. This means just two per cent of the population uses buses daily.
We are looking at getting 120,000 ridership daily when we get additional buses.
Q: How do you view the cancellation of the Penang Outer Ring Road and monorail projects?
A: With the buses we are going to have, it will improve public transportation in Penang. The monorail projects would have taken four to five years and it would have caused massive congestion.
It would also have adverse effects on the heritage value of Penang. The monorail is good for point to point movement of people but not for mass transit. The monorail costs much but actually does little.
Q: What do you have to say to your critics?
A: We welcome constructive criticism and we take it positively to improve our services.
A recent survey by the state government showed that 66 per cent of people viewed RapidPenang as the answer to traffic woes on the island.
We recently introduced services to the Penang International Airport after a lapse of four years. Now you can get to the airport for just RM2 from the city centre.
Q: What do you hope will be done by the state government to help RapidPenang?
A: We are seeking the help of the state government to provide more holding areas for our buses. We also hope to get dedicated bus lanes to improve the timing of the buses.