The new swanky RM570 bus terminal in Bandar Tasik Selatan was ready for use early this year. I visited the place twice on the last day of 2010 and on new Year day after getting a glimpse of the terminal from the media blitz. My son was going back to Malacca by bus and since the terminal was supposed to handle all the busses going south, we thought of checking the place out and book a ticket for him. Using the MRR2 we discovered that there is no entry to the place via MRR2 southwards. You have to enter via BESRAYA or MRR2 northwards. I tried parking at the LRT parking area and it took me a while to figure out how to get to the terminal from the LRT station, a typical case of so near yet so far. I had to circle back to Salak via Bandar Tun Razak to get into BESRAYA then on to Kampung Malaysia Raya to enter the terminal. It is imposing, modern and sophisticated . More of an airport terminal than a bus terminal. Reminds me of bus terminal in the western developed countries. I was really proud.
Despite some problems with the parking, not due lack of parking but lack of proper signage, we managed to find a place to park. There are plenty of parking spaces actually and it is free for the time being. The place is truly fisrt class.
Then the reality starts to sink in. First, the ticket counter has a somewhat weird way of selling tickets – you have to show your ID! And there were only five bus companies operating from the terminal. After all the sabre rattling by Halimah Sadique (the CVLB chairperson) warning all the operators to move in, only five agreed by the new year. And they cannot even sell us the ticket for the next day because of the uncertainties surrounding the opening. They were more workers manning the terminal than the customers. One lady was incensed that she paid RM200 to hire a taxi to get to the terminal so that she can catch a bus to Singapore only to be told the bus was not there and still operating from Bukit Jalil. Tv news later that evening and newspaper reports a few consecutives days after that tells me something was very wrong with the implementation of the whole project. Apparently, the project was implemented with scant engagement with one of the the main users – the bus companies. One main complaint is the ticketing system. The operator of the terminal, one Maju Terminal Management System – Maju TMAS) has developed a fully integrated ticketing system. There is no individual bus company ticket booth. All tickets must be procured through the system provided by Maju TMAS. Some bus companies who had spent millions in developing their own ticketing systems definitely are not amused. State of the art ticketing systems are part and parcel of their marketing strategies. You took that away from them, you are basically stripping them of an important marketing tool. On top of that the bus companies had to pay commission to the terminal operator for the ticketing operations. Worse still their systems are apparently more advanced and in tune to the users demands than the one provided by Maju TMAS. The system provided by Maju TMAS is 10 years behind time they said. One bus operator was reportedly saying it is just like MAB is operating the ticketing counters at the airports instead of the airlines! There are more grouses from the bus operators such as terminal charges, lack of bays, potential congestion on the routes leading to the BTS and retrenchment of their ticketing clercks.
On the other front, there is this powerful street hawkers association which threaten to set up illegal stalls unless they are given opportunities to operate at the terminal – much like at the congested good ole’ Pudu Raya. I cannot believe my ears when I heard on TV the association president blatantly said that they can easily set up a few hundred illegal push-cart stalls at the terminal unless the terminal management negotiate with them about their rights to trade there. Wow…If only the president can use the same power to do something about the congestion that they create near my place.
In times like this, we really missed the guile and persuasiveness of Samy Vellu. Remember the days when he managed to twist and turned and forced the highway operators to use only one toll card and tag system. He negotiated, engaged, partly threatened, partly ascended to the demands to of the operators and ultimately the consumer wins. The BTS is a typical case of how the government is excellent at delivering good product to the rakyat but a bit off in implementing it. The facility itself is so good, I felt it should be the one to replace Pudu Raya. At last the government is looking after the man on the streets. Unfortunately as of yesterday, it was reported that only nine bus companies have agreed to use the BTS, the rest are still waiting, despite the late directive by CVLB for them to move in by 1st jan 2011 and despite the threat to revoke their licences. After all, how many times have we heard of that threat before, only for them to be later rescinded. As for now, the confusion reigned. What else is new. Happy New Year folks.