| Siti Hajar |
THE public acceptance of a more comprehensive public transportation system is leaning towards optimism, as the government gears up to consider proposals that aims to take Brunei’s road and sea network beyond Vision 2035.
During a presentation on the Land Transport Master Plan (LTMP) held yesterday at The Empire Hotel & Country Club, the Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS) as well as other researchers indicated that the people of Brunei will respond positively should public transportation options are offered, despite not necessarily having to remove fuel subsidies.
Though further studies are required to better determine the role subsidies play in encouraging people to consider public transportation, it was noted that the public transportation ridership will increase by 20 per cent “if fuel subsidy is completely removed”, with its profits reinvested in national development.
But despite this observation, the core group of researchers who had worked on the proposal had pointed that the use of public transportation is more an issue of choice, and if choices are made affordable and are competitive against the current conventional means of transportation, an integrated public transportation system will be more attractive.
“Each country has its own culture, and every recommendation will have views from the general public before it is implemented. Typically, social engagement is needed in each proposal before it is introduced,” explained Managing Director Gary Ho and Transport Planner Franki Li from SQW China Limited, alongside Associate Director Cameron MacDonald and Technical Director Jonathan Spear from Atkins in Hong Kong.
On paper, such a suggestion will seem simple, but public engagement will be among a number of challenges that the government could potentially face, as was explained by the team during an interview with the media on the sidelines of the proposal presentation. “It isn’t something that can change over a day or two, nor within a month or a year, and change will only be seen over the long-term,” they said. They also highlighted that the younger generation are main game-changers for the future of public transportation usage, with the team expressing confidence that mechanisms presented in the LTMP are sufficient enough to affect these changes.
But half the battle, it seems, has been effortlessly conquered. It was shared that interviews and surveys related to the research revealed that the public is aware of the importance of public transportation and had prioritised the need to upgrade and improve the current system whilst introducing better options, as opposed to giving precedence to repairing roads.
Alongside providing the public with a reliable system, keeping up with the information age is another component in ensuring that this initiative receives public recognition.
“It is important to let the public know, and to make information accessible,” which is not the present case as online information on the country’s public transportation is limited. This makes it difficult for the people to get better acquainted with the current system, they added.
Apart from the anticipated government bureaucracy throughout the process of the LTMP implementation – as it requires collaboration among different government ministries and departments – the initiative is also facing 21st century challenges in terms of technology, especially with the country’s lack of equipment and sophistication related to improving public transportation. “Because we are proposing a more comprehensive, more complex integrated transportation system in the future, some of that technology currently does not exist in Brunei,” which is another aspect that the government would have to consider as part of these proposals and recommendations.
Significant finances would have to be set aside to ensure that these proposals come to the fore, as the investment injected into the realisation of a better, more connected public transportation system will contribute to the growth of the country, such as through foreign investment, it was highlighted. “One of the high priorities for foreign investors is the transportation system, to see whether it is user friendly and whether it is good and efficient enough to move their labour,” it was pointed, and hence, “Land transportation is very important for the country.”