The reaction to the worst nation's road accident, that caused 20 fatality was rather disappointing. It's dejavu all over again when it's becoming an ugly finger pointing game. Fundamentally, this incident calls for a transportation market regulation. As was successfully done in banking and telecommunication industry, the express bus market has to be consolidated to only a few operators.
The mess in Puduraya is a good sign of it. Multiple operators; big, medium, and small, are trying to eat the same piece of cake. What options do bus users have but from:
- bad ticketing system,
- poor bus station services,
- bad bus maintenance,
- bad drivers,
- shortage of buses during peak season,
- frequent breakdowns, and
- risking life of passengers in the hands of some reckless drivers.
A consolidated market will bring down the numbers of operators to a few with economic of scale to operate a huge fleet with good maintenance and day-to-day business. In a two-pronged approach, it'd make it easier for government to monitor and enforce new rules concerning drivers, bus, and safety.
I can still recall the decision to install black box device in buses few years back was unsuccessful due to cost reason given by small operators. In this recent incident, not only the operator allow a traffic offender with two arrest warrants to drive, the driver was not accompanied with another driver as stipulated in the regulation. If the brake system was the root cause, then blame it on shortage of fleet and infrequent maintenance.
Should the government decided to regulate, it'd be a short-term pain for these regulators with mergers and acquisition activities going on in the market. Some operators might be averse to such proposal and could jeopardize such plan. Perhaps, some also might propose regional-based operators system, but it could make it harder to devise such system.
Just as you would switch from apple to orange when apple price shoot up the roof, long distance travelers should be given other alternative, i.e. fast train service. Bullet train could be an expensive solution, but it'd be a good catalyst for interstate development in the long run and would make it possible for someone living in Ipoh to commute to Kuala Lumpur for daily work. In turn, this could balance the urban migration and allow people to have quality of life outside of Klang Valley. This could also be the remedy to the traffic congestion on our highways as numbers of private car ownership keep growing every year.
Though free market advocates might not agree to this solution, the safety or public transport users should be a major consideration. Just as the government wanted everyone to have access to quality mobile phone service, I believe this come on top of that at any point.
Imagine your son due for graduation in the coming week died in such accident. It's tragic. It's a wake up call. It's a lesson for all of us, but how long does the government has to wait to solve the fundamental problem of this. Let's get back to the planning board and have a constructive plan to revive our express bus system.
Yes, I am a frequent coach users. I subscribe to frequent-traveler system and I do buy Aeroline tickets online. And this issue concerns me.