New Straits Times

New hope for bus operators to restart business


KUALA LUMPUR: School bus operators can breathe a sigh of relief as schools are expected to reopen in stages starting tomorrow.

While initially involving only primary school pupils, this is enough to give them hope to rise again following a dark period since the Covid-19 pandemic early last year.

Federation of School Bus Associatio­ns Malaysia president Amali Munif Rahmat said the sector had been affected since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemente­d last year, forcing school sessions to be deferred.

“Almost 40 per cent of school bus operators had to cease business. We used to have around 10,000 operators, but only 6,000 are left now. The rest had to wind down operations, incurring losses as they were unable to maintain the buses. Many have since turned to the gig economy.

“We had to bear the maintenanc­e costs and debts even though the last payment we received from parents was in September last year. Overall, last year, we were paid only six months worth of fees in January, February, March, July, August and September.”

Amali Munif said besides the decline in industry players, many guardians were worried about the transmissi­on of Covid-19 via school buses.

“Many parents still do not allow their children to use the school bus service. Parents who work from home have the time to send children to school.

“This is worrying as our data shows a consistent downward trend in terms of passenger volume. We lost more than 500,000 passengers or 33 per cent compared with the pre-Covid-19 period.”

Education Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin recently announced that schools would reopen for preschoole­rs and Years One and Two on March 1, followed by Years Three, Four, Five and Six on March 8. Secondary schools will commence on April 4 in Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, and April 5 for other states.

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