IPOH: Passengers on an express bus from Perlis and Kedah to Pahang had to endure an agonising eight-hour wait at a petrol station at the Simpang Pulai rest area after the driver took off unannounced.
The 35 passengers of the double-decker bus, aged between six and 67, were supposed to arrive in Temerloh by 5am and Kuantan by 7am yesterday, but only reached their destinations at 2.30pm and 4.30pm respectively.
The driver pulled up at the rest area at about 2am and told the passengers the journey would resume in 20 minutes.
But he never came back and a replacement driver only arrived at 9.30am to take over the wheel.
The businessman said the driver was nowhere to be found and they decided to seek help from the petrol station staff to view the CCTV footage.
"The footage showed the driver returning to the bus, taking his backpack and hopping onto another express bus," he said.
Nazri and his wife Hazrin Laila Ibrahim, 42, boarded the bus in Kuala Perlis at about 8pm on Thursday to go back to Temerloh.
He said the bus was supposed to depart from Kuala Perlis at 7.45pm, but only left the station after 8pm.
According to Nazri, there was initially another driver who got down in Jitra, Kedah, after which the "missing in action" driver took over.
"When he stopped in Simpang Pulai, I went to the toilet and saw him chatting with some people," he said.
Hazrin said they had hoped to reach Temerloh early yesterday to celebrate her husband's birthday with their four children.
"I am shocked that the bus driver could actually do such a thing, leaving us just like that.
"We have reported the incident to police and the Land Public Transport Commission," she added.
Another passenger, Zamir Zulkifli, uses the bus to go to Kuantan every weekend to see his wife.
Zamir, a 26-year-old secondary schoolteacher based in Kedah, said he had never encountered such a problem before and was shocked to find the bus in the same spot when he woke up at 5.30am.
Cook Siti Aminah Arof, 42, from Pendang, Kedah, boarded the bus with her 67-year-old mother and two daughters, aged six and 18, to visit relatives in Kuantan.
"This was my first time travelling by bus and after so long in the bus, my mother's legs started to cramp," she said.
Another passenger, who declined to be named, said he was heading to Temerloh from Alor Setar for a reunion dinner.
"I usually drive when I go outstation but after retirement, I decided to use an express bus for the first time and this incident had to happen," he said.
A spokesman for the bus company said it was investigating why both drivers did not continue their journey.
He said the drivers' mobile phones had been switched off and neither of them could be reached.
"I was only informed about the matter by a passenger at 6.30am and immediately took steps to ensure that a replacement driver reached the site," he said.
When contacted, Perak Road Transport Department director Mohd Zawawi Zakaria said the passengers could lodge a complaint.
He said the department would issue a notice under Section 114 of the Road Transport Act 1987.
"Under Section 15 (a) of the Public Service Vehicle licence, action can be taken against the driver for his conduct," he added.