SIBU: Express bus operators under the Sarawak Bus Transport Companies Association (SBTCA) whose incomes have been affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic have applied for government assistance in order to sustain their operations.
SBTCA honorary secretary William Chan said so far one of the association’s member companies had already stopped operations while another had suspended operations as they could no longer afford operating costs.
“Eight other companies under the SBTCA are still managing to survive but are only allowed to operate at a rate of 50 per cent due to the strict implementation of standard operating procedures of the Movement Control Order (MCO) to curb COVID-19,” he told Bernama.
According to Chan, the state government’s recently announced sixth package of the Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang did not list express bus operators or drivers as recipients of the assistance although they had been badly affected since the pandemic began.
“Before the spread of COVID-19 in Sarawak, members of this association operated 164 express buses with 331 drivers and with an average passenger rate of 60 per cent but now only 101 buses with 226 drivers remain carrying only a five per cent average passenger rate,” he said.
Chan said the situation was exacerbated by the temporary shutdown of many business operations in the state which caused demand for cargo deliveries using express bus services to plummet.
He said the association had submitted a letter requesting the state government to exempt the rental of express bus ticket counters in the state but so far no response had been received.
Apart from that issue, he said one of its member companies was also facing the issue of monthly rent increase for office space at the Bus Terminal in Serian and had been required to make an advance payment equivalent to the value of three months’ rental.
He said, by earning almost nothing but still required to repay bus loans, rent of premises, employee salaries and so on, it is difficult for these bus companies to survive and continue their operations.
“If the current situation continues for a few more months, I do not rule out the possibility that the remaining companies under the SBTCA would either suspend or permanently cease operations,” he added.