School bus fares to be deregulated from January: Malaysia Land Transport Commission

PETALING JAYA - School bus fares are likely to rise in January following a decision by the Land Transport Commission (SPAD) to deregulate fares due to rising costs.

Commission chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, who announced this yesterday, said that the new "flexible" fare structure would be decided based on "negotiations" that would take place between parents and bus operators.

The news had many parents disappointed.

School bus owner associations, meanwhile, refused to provide an estimated quantum of increase but some operators in Johor said they were hoping to charge between RM30 (S$12) and RM40 more.

Syed Hamid said SPAD decided to do away with the regulated fare structure after getting feedback and evaluating the rising operational costs for buses in terms of fuel, maintenance, servicing and spare parts.

"We are therefore giving freedom to parents and bus operators to negotiate and come to agreement on the fares.

"This decision will ensure that the industry provides services of better quality, especially in terms of safety and comfort for students," he told a press conference at SPAD headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

Bus operators are now charging RM27.43 for the first kilometre and RM2.05 for every subsequent kilometre in urban areas under a fare scheme regulated since 2009 by the Commercial Licensing Board (CVLB).

Parents in rural areas pay a lower fare of RM20.62 for the first kilometre and RM2.02 for every subsequent kilometre. SPAD, set up in 2010, took over the functions of the CVLB.

School bus operators, citing rising costs, had asked for a 40 per cent fare hike in December last year.

On Thursday, there was even more impetus for their requests after the pump prices for RON95 petrol and diesel both rose by 20 sen per litre to RM2.30 and RM2.20 respectively.

Syed Hamid said the new fare scheme would affect 15,000 registered bus operators nationwide and could attract the additional estimated 30,000 unlicensed bus operators to come on board.

He, however, warned operators that SPAD would be closely watching the new fares and the safety of the buses.

"We welcome any complaints and reports by parents and will take stern action on school bus operators who charge excessive fares," he said.