The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) responded to school bus operators recently claiming the government’s removal of diesel subsidies necessitates increased fares, saying its data has shown operators still sought to raise fares even when diesel subsidies were extended by the Government.
Following this, the school bus fares were liberalised in 2015 with a caveat that operators set their fares based on agreement with schools and parent-teacher associations.
“We felt that allowing market forces to shape fares would be a fair and reasonable way forward and upon implementation, SPAD no longer received complaints from parents about indiscriminate fare hikes.
“Regardless, SPAD has continued to engage with bus operators to remind them of the need to stick to the spirit of deregulation,” it said in a statement.
It has already engaged on this current development with representatives of three of the largest school bus associations in Peninsular Malaysia, Pertubuhan Persatuan Pengusaha Bas Sekolah Semenanjung Malaysia (PPPBSSM), Persekutuan Persatuan-Persatuan Bas Sekolah Malaysia (PPPBSM) and Gabungan Pengusaha Bas Sekolah Malaysia (GPBSM), and will hold another engagement session with industry players to assess whether there is a need to review current practices and identify a more effective formula to solve the annual challenge.
In the meantime, SPAD advises consumers to report on school bus operators that engage in cartel behaviour, setting unreasonable prices, to Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) under the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism.
It also encourages more individuals to come forward and apply for school bus operator’s licences in order to raise service standards and increase the number of licensed school bus providers.
SPAD implemented the deregulation of school bus fares to enable consumer power to shape the quality of this essential service at competitive prices while keeping the industry sustainable, and encourages all parties to arrive at solutions equitable to everyone involved.
Currently there are more than 10,000 licensed school bus operators with more than 16,800 school buses in Peninsular Malaysia.
In addition, SPAD has also extended several initiatives to help the school bus industry including the School Bus Replacement Scheme from January 2013 to December 2014 for bus operators to replace aging vehicles to promote safe travel for school children.
A total of RM18.5 million was disbursed to 213 applicants under a soft loan scheme offered at a low repayment rate of 2%.
The Finance Ministry also allocated funds to provide RM10,000 rebates for the down payment of new bus purchases and as subsidy for the repayment of the soft loan.
In 2013, SPAD introduced the School Children Insurance Coverage Scheme to provide a safety net for students and their families in the event of accidents, including coverage during other school-approved travel such as excursions and extra-curricular activities.
By the end of November 2016, the scheme provided coverage to an estimated 1.5 million school children between the ages of 7 and 19, with a total investment of RM14 million.