The dialogue session in progress. Tiang is at left.
SIBU (March 12): Deputy Minister for Public Health, Housing and Local Government II Michael Tiang held a dialogue with bus operators here yesterday afternoon to understand their problems.
The bus operators put forward eight issues, five of which involved stage buses and three express buses.
Tiang, who is also Pelawan assemblyman, said he would bring up all the issues raised during the dialogue to the ‘GPS Team for New Sibu’ for a solution.
Tiang said the stage bus operators told him that they urgently needed permanent information counters to display bus travel schedules and to help passengers and tourists if needed.
The operators said many years ago, Sibu Municipal Council (SMC), Sarawak Bus Transport Companies Association and Sibu Taxi Owners’ Association had agreed to renovate the station after having a few meetings.
“The operators also said the last bus fare increase was in 2009. The association has applied to have the fare increased many times, but none was approved.
“Also, for the past 13 years, the wages, bus maintenance and so forth have increased by 30 to 60 per cent.
“Because of that, 18 out of 30 bus companies in Sarawak had no choice but to close shop because they were unable to cope,” he said, adding that employees also had to be laid off due to the closure.
There are only 12 express bus companies left in the state.
On the RM1 ticket scheme implemented by the Sarawak government, he said it was only to support the stage bus operators so that they could continue to operate. The scheme is not extended to express bus operators.
“Operators are hoping that the government would not stop giving subsidies to allow the stage bus operators to continue to operate,” he said.
The long-distance bus operators, meanwhile, complained that the parking spaces at the bus terminal here were often taken by other long vehicles.
Tiang said: “I agree with them that this is not fair for the bus operators who are paying the rent. I hope the relevant authorities would take this matter seriously, and take action against owners or drivers of other vehicles that take up the spaces or else give bus operators free parking.”
He also hoped that SMC would do something about the sinking bus parking space at the bus terminal here.