More progressive approach to enhance public transportation

Hakim Hayat

Upon reviewing the implementation of the public transportation project that was mooted two years ago, a significant amount of investment will be required. The Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) decided to do a more progressive approach in executing the plan, including the utilisation of existing technologies, Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohammad Yusof said at the ongoing 17th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday.

The minister was responding to a query by LegCo member Yang Berhormat Iswandy bin Ahmad on the progress of the public transportation plan that he said is always mentioned but has not shown any visible progress.

“The ASEAN Automotive Federation in its report last year said, Brunei is the only country in the bloc that recorded increase in car sales from January to November last year.

“According to the study, this is because of the lack of public transport services in the country,” Yang Berhormat Iswandy said.

A large number of public buses are operating in Brunei-Muara District only and does not cover the whole district because of limited routes, he added.

Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Awang Iswandy bin Ahmad. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

The minister, in his reply said, upon review with the related agencies, MTIC has decided to take a more progressive approach, and are determining whether foreign direct investment (FDI) is required.

He added that the ministry is currently working on an information system for public buses as part of the progressive approach, using existing technology to enhance the services and revealed that it is in its finalisation stage.

It is expected to be launched by the third quarter of this year, he added.

The minister said a local company is developing a software system involving bus operators and related agencies.

MTIC is constantly in communication with bus operators, and conduct visits to discuss ways to enhance services, including the image of public bus services. The minister also shared statistics of annual ridership of public buses in Brunei which is about two million passengers.

However these numbers were halved last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are also challenges that might impede the growth of public bus services, the minister said, adding that the notion of public bus riding does not attract the young generation today despite efforts made to enhance the image of the services.

The minister also brought up the first ride-hailing service in the country ‘Dart’, launched two years ago that has generated a positive response while utilising existing technology.

“If we can do the same with public buses, the public can check bus schedules at their fingertips; as one of the ways to incrementally improve the public transportation,” he said.