KUCHING: Poor public transportation remains a serious issue not only in this city but across Sarawak that leaves many poor and low income working-class residents crippled with limited mobility and placed additional strain on them financially.
Thus, there is a crucial need to invest in and revive the public transport services, particularly in Kuching, to improve people’s accessibility to just about everything – work, schools and services, Democratic Action Party (DAP) pointed out.
To illustrate their point, Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong said many public bus services throughout Kuching City had been axed in the past several years.
“Many residents in Bintawa have complained after the buses operating to some routes here have been cut for three months now, while the bus services to some areas in Sungai Apong have stopped a year ago,” she told a press conference at the Bintawa Hawker Centre yesterday.
“Now, only bus no. K1 to Muara Tabuan light industrial zone and Tabuan Jaya and bus K11 to King Centre are still operating in the Bintawa area,” she elaborated.
Because of that, she added, many residents in Bintawa area, especially from the low-income group and the elderly, had to seek other means of transportation like private vans to commute to their destinations.
“Public transport like buses are a necessity, an extremely important mode of transport for the poor citizens who can’t afford cars particularly,” she stressed.
DAP Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen, who is also Bandar Kuching MP and Kota Sentosa assemblyman, highlighted that proper public transportation system is a key factor in every good town planning.
“A truly developed country is where even the rich or well-to-do are willing or regularly take public transport like buses, instead of every household owning two to three cars,” he said.
To show their displeasure with the government for totally neglecting the public bus services in Kuching, DAP held a protest at the bus stop opposite the Bintawa Hawker Centre.
“The public bus service in Kuching is disappearing and there are only 100 over buses operated by four private companies currently which are grossly insufficient considering the size of the population,” Chong said.
He added that DAP had on many occasions reminded the government of the need to improve public bus services in Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri.
“The Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem, had during the state election campaign said he might consider providing free public bus service but after the election, the state government is totally silent about it,” he said.
He suggested that government use the suggestions tabled in the past State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sittings on how it can approach this issue.
“First, acquire shares of all the four existing bus companies. Second, purchase 200 more buses. Third, provide free public bus service in Kuching for the first five years,” he suggested.
“Taking into account the financial reports of the existing bus companies and market rate of new buses, it will take only about RM150 million on the part of the government to fully acquire the four companies, purchase 200 new buses and cover the operation cost for the first year,” he said.
“Operation cost for subsequent years will be about RM50 million a year,” he added.
On why there is a need to provide free bus services in the first five years, Chong said it is to allow people to try, change commuting pattern and adapt to public transportation.