KUCHING: While waiting for the implementation of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line and Stage Bus Services Transformation (SBST) programme, the Sarawak Transport Ministry is also making efforts to improve existing public bus services.

Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the ministry was getting feedback from bus operators, bus drivers and passengers on the problems faced, and from there, a proposal would be planned out to solve the issues.

“I have been on public bus rides on five occasions; three in Kuching and two in Miri,” he told the press after a meeting with Sarawak Bus Transport Companies Association (SBTCA) and bus operators here yesterday.

Lee said from his experience during the rides, he noticed several issues such as the bus not showing up, and some bus stands were without schedule boards as well as no rubbish bins in place.

He said at the bus stop at Stutong Market, motorists had parked their cars there.

“We also received feedback from (the) bus association on their problems. One is the difficulty in getting qualified bus drivers, competition from private van and e-hailing services,” Lee said, adding that a bus driving licence would cost from RM6,000 to RM7,000.

“We also need to look into having a bus depot in order to have a proper place to put all the buses.

“Talking about bus schedule…we are looking at having a mobile app (to track the schedule). Of course, there will be costs involved, but we will do a study on this,” he said.

Lee stressed that all this would need to be planned based on the bus users.

Lee (seated, centre) speaking to the press. With him are SBTCA chairman Sazali Morshidi (seated, second left), Sarawak Transport Ministry advisor Dr Lawrence Tseu (seated, third left) and bus operators.

“We must understand the users because they know best the problems. We cannot just listen to bus operators, or just simply apply our theory.

“What is important is to ask the bus users what kind of problems they face and how to overcome them,” he pointed out.

Lee also stressed that all improvement plans would take time as his ministry had just been set up.

“We had a few meetings with the bus association already. This will be ongoing and there will be regular meetings between the ministry, bus association, city councils, with us coming and working together to come out with a solution.”

He added that his ministry would also be working with the Federal Ministry of Transport as he had met with Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook in November last year to discuss issues relating to the public transportation system in Sarawak.