Private bus company goes conductor-free
IN what could be the end of the line for Yangon’s notorious bus conductors, one bus line owner is introducing a system of asking passengers to pay fares into a collection box. Ko Ta Yoke Lay, who runs the No 45 line, says the introduction of the system will remove the need for bus conductors.
In addition to their fare collection duties, Yangon’s bus conductors often add the following services: delaying the bus while they harangue passers-by, touting their destinations; overcharging in wet weather or late at night, or on a whim; and egging their drivers on to jockey with rival carriers, to the alarm of others on the roads.
“I’ve already introduced a system by which the passengers no longer hand money over to a conductor, but just drop the fare into the basket themselves,” said Ko Ta Yoke Lay. He said the system was now in use on seven new buses, and would be installed on all his company’s new buses.
He said he might retain some conductors for non-fare-related services.
“Thanks to passenger cooperation, the new system is working. Profits are the same as before. The passengers like the system, and are already prepared to use prepaid cards,” he said. Passengers who need change simply take it from the basket.
The Yangon Regional government last month announced plans to overhaul Yangon’s chaotic bus system – where more than 350 privately owned lines compete for passengers – by allowing companies to form public-private partnerships, and phasing out the use of old buses in the city centre.
Ko Ta Yoke Lay said, “We’re applying to form a PPP company and will present proposals to the regional government. We’ve been working toward this since 2013. Our 2006-model buses are compliant with the Bus Rapid Transport system and we’re inviting other bus line owners and the public to buy shares.”
The city’s first PPP last year started to operate a service called BRT Lite, which runs along two routes. The new lines are expected to operate on similar terms. Ko Ta Yoke Lay wants to keep the Insein to Sule Pagoda route, which he already plies with his 21 buses.
“The former government said it would bring in a PPP system, but didn’t offer to support the bus companies. The present government says it will support us against lost profits. This approach inspires more confidence,” he said, referring to a promise to allow new PPPs to open petrol stations to help them stay profitable. Ko Ta Yoke Lay has been leading the way among bus operators – he was the first owner to hire female conductors, in the hope that they would be more polite to the customers.
In anticipation of the introduction of prepaid cards, he has started to train them as drivers, so that they can one day drive the PPP buses.
“Some of them have already got their licences,” he said.
A motorcycle drives past the Central Bank of Myanmar in Nay Pyi Taw.