PETALING JAYA: Bus companies may be forced to downsize their fleets to cope with rising operating costs, including this month’s hike in the price of fuel.
This is according to Pan Malaysian Bus Operators Association president Ashfar Ali, who said in an interview with FMT that the latest increase in the price of diesel was a heavy blow to the industry, already burdened by rising costs in spare parts and labour as well as government regulation of fares.
The price of diesel went up by 10 sen a litre last Wednesday. RON95 and RON97 petrol prices both increased by 20 sen a litre.
Ashfar said the government could help ease the bus industry’s burden by deregulating fares, which have stayed the same since they were last reviewed in 2009.
He noted that repeated calls for deregulation had been ignored.
“We don’t understand why the government has to control the fares,” he said. “Why can’t it let market forces decide? The operators will then compete with each other to provide the best services at the lowest price.”
He said the fuel price increase was the latest in a series of blows to bus companies and would eventually cause them to retire some of their buses.
“Most of the spare parts we buy are from overseas,” he said. “Due to the weakened ringgit, the cost of spare parts has increased 33%. The minimum wage has also gone up and there are many other issues that have caused our operation costs to go up.
“We will be further affected by the fuel price increase.”
He said it was perplexing that the government would not deregulate bus fares when it could deregulate the prices of cooking oil, rice and other essential items.
“On such low fares, we cannot provide value-added services such as WiFi, bigger seats and better entertainment so that passengers can travel in style and comfort.”
Ashfar’s association represents companies operating express buses. He said their passenger loads were not as high as those of stage buses.
“We don’t get many passengers,” he said. “Potential passengers have other alternatives such as the trains and budget flights.” -FMT