Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Taking a gamble

The Star Online - 19 August 2007


WE have no other option. All we can do is to pray hard.” This was the general sentiment shared by the hundreds of Malaysians waiting to board their express buses at Puduraya and the Jalan Duta bus stations here yesterday.

The one-week mid-semester school break is on again and the long balik kampung and holidaymaking rush started on Friday, with families and students making up the highest number of the exodus out of the city.

Looking at the throng at the bus stations, it was hard to believe that it has been less than a week since the horrific road tragedy – said to be the country’s worst – at Km229 of the North-South Expressway near Bukit Gantang, Perak, which claimed 21 lives and injured nine others.

Many travellers admitted that they were worried about their safety but with no viable alternative available, they had no choice but to “gamble with their lives”.

May Lee, 28 who was travelling to her hometown in Johor with six young children including her nephews and nieces:

“I always take the bus back to my hometown, and I guess I am used to it. It is scary when an accident happens but I don’t really have a choice.”

Sally Khuat, 23, a primary school teacher from Cheras, who travels home to Alor Star, Kedah, about 10 times a year to visit her family:

“Of course I am afraid of what may happen if I take the bus, but if I do not, how am I supposed to get home? I only take buses from this particular bus company. They do not have as many summonses and accidents, and are constantly upgrading their fleet.

“I think accidents happen because of the driver. They are the ones who are driving fast or even fall asleep at the wheel. I do not think that the condition of the bus can be so bad that it can cause such major accidents.”

Farhana Abdul Salam, 22 from Muar, Johor, a fourth year student at Universiti Perguruan Sultan Idris (UPSI) Tanjung Malim, Perak:

“Sometimes I get worried when I see the bus driver looking exhausted and sleepy but I’m too scared to say anything. So I just pray hard all the way.”

Marianna Mohd Hashim, 22, from Kajang, Selangor, a fourth year student at UPSI:

“There are many bus drivers who drive fast but what can I do? I am too scared to go up to the driver and ask him to stop because my life is in his hands. What if I only make him angry and he drives even faster to spite me?”

Rosmawati Mat Deris who was returning home to her hometown with her three children:

“It is the same story every time. When something happens, everyone will come up with various proposals to improve things but then nothing is implemented, until another big accident happens. Something needs to be done about how drivers are hired and their working condition. Like the driver of the bus in Bukit Gantang, how did he get away with so many offences? There are also many bus drivers who are on drugs.”

UPSI student Mastura Md Bakhir, 22, from Dungun, Terengganu:

“I always take the night bus home, because it is the most convenient for me. It saves time and I have classes during the day. If I take the night bus, I can sleep all the way and arrive in the morning. I know it could be dangerous and I am scared but for now this is my best choice because I don’t want to waste my holiday.”

M. Shalinee, 19, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia:

“Since the accident, my mum has been really worried and told me to be careful but how can I be careful when it is really the driver’s fault if there is an accident?

“There have been many times on my way home when I feel that the bus driver was going really fast but what can I do? So I just close my eyes and pray hard to God to keep me safe.”

Mohd Hazrol Halim, 19, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, who takes the bus home every time there is a break in classes, which is about every one-and-a half months:

“Trains are cheaper – RM17 for the economy ticket as opposed to the RM24 I pay for the bus, but that is not convenient for me. Yes, of course I am wary of the safety of the bus, but what can I do about it?”

Mohd Zaki Ahmad, 47, and his family – wife Mariam, 43, son Mohd Amaluddin, 17, daughters Nadirah, 13, and Syasa Amirah 11 – who were taking the bus back to his hometown of Alor Star:

“We booked the tickets two weeks ago, before the accident happened, but we decided to take the bus anyway. I feel that there is insufficient enforcement on the part of the police and the JPJ.”

- The Malaysian public view travelling by express bus a gamble on their lives. After the Bukit Gantang bus tragedy until today, 6 months after the tragedy, taking express buses remains a gamble for the Malaysian public. Nothing has changed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are putting risk on ourselves traveling on buses, if the government doesn’t learn from other countries how they can put buses safety on their passengers.