Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Need for A Unified Public Transport Regulator

Since this blog was set up in 2008, we have heard the authorities making all kinds of pledges whenever there is a fatal bus accident. Sadly, little has changed since then. Speeding buses and lorries, lorries with faulty tail lights and heavy vehicles emitting black fumes etc. are still a common sight on our roads and expressways.

The problem lies in the multiple agencies and bodies with overlapping jurisdictions over public transport. You have SPAD which is parked under the Prime Minister's Department, JPJ which is under the Transport Ministry, PUSPAKOM, JKJR, MIROS, all coexisting separately. Naturally, every time there is a fatal bus accident, there is a propensity for there to be a blame game given the multiple agencies overseeing the same if not similar issues.

On top of that, you have all that bureaucratic red tape at the top. For example, in SPAD, you have 5 Members of Commission overseeing the agency. Decisions made by the management team must go through the Members of Commission before it is passed on to the Prime Minister's Department or the Ministry of Finance for approval.

The effectiveness of PUSPAKOM is also questionable. Are the machines properly calibrated? How is DRB Hicom combating allegations of corruption and misconduct within PUSPAKOM? Are the inspection standards according to international norms? How did all those non-roadworthy heavy vehicles make it to our roads?

There are also rumours related to the issuance of public transport licenses. Some of the licenses issued under the now defunct Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board (CVLB) are said to be without conditions and that these licenses run for years hence the existing regulators have no grounds to suspend nor revoke them. It is also said that many of the bus and lorry operators have both underworld and political links and because of these links they are very well insulated against the long arms of the law and the authorities.

Whatever the problems are, I strongly believe that the first step should be to merge all these agencies and bodies into one entity and to park them under the Ministry of Transport. This will increase accountability and bring together all the resources that each agency claims they are lacking.

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