Bus conditions top concern

OVERLOADING of buses, poor accessibility for people living with disability, poor bus conditions, driver’s bad behaviour, eticketing issue, overcharging of fares are among the thousands of issues submitted to the Bus Fare Review Committee from the public this week.

More than 6000 submissions have been received by the committee through the different platforms offered to the public within two weeks.

Among the thousands of submissions received, bus commuter Darlein Chandra of Koronivia raised her concern on the increase in bus fares at the consultation in Ratu Sukuna Park on Tuesday.

“Previously when we travelled in the bus, our bus fare was $1.90 from Koronivia to Suva (direct), but now the fare has gone up to $2.33,” she said.

“The increase could be unfair to single parents who probably work in garment factory trying to make ends meet. I think $1.90 is reasonable and the $2.33 is unreasonable and I hope it could be reduced to the previous rate.”

Marika Yalimaiwai of Raiwaqa said the bus fare review committee needed to look into the reduction of eticketing top up recharges.

“The lowest top up amount of $2 should be reduced to the Stage 1 fare of $0.68 so it’s convenient for those travelling shorter distance,” Mr Yalimaiwai said.

Mr Yalimaiwai asked about people’s safety in terms of overloading in buses and how it’s raking in revenue for bus companies and how the committee would analyse the situation. “In terms of bus fare review you (committee) need to look into this. It would be unfair to talk about bus fare reviews without considering the situation on the ground and the situation on the ground is that passengers stand in the bus and remain standing until they reach the bus stand.

“I live in Raiwaqa and if I’m coming to Suva at 8.30am the bus is always full. I have to stand until I reach the bus stand and I think it’s unfair that I’m paying for the same fare that people who are seated are paying while I’m standing all the way to my destination.

“It’s a norm in Fiji for buses to have standing passengers exceeding 10 people within the Suva and Nausori corridor.

“Everyone pays the same fare and I think the committee needs to consider lesser fare charges for those standing.”

Bus Fare Review Committee chairman Joel Abraham said they would analyse and deliberate on all the issues submitted by the public concerning buses.

“One of the main issues raised is the poor conditions of buses including oil leakages, smoke emissions, and mechanical failure of buses, conduct of drivers and many other issues,” he said.

“Through the consultation the public is coming forward and are advocating for fare reduction and we are urging the public to provide logical submissions to why they want the fare reduced.

“The response has been good and on our sixth day we have had more than 6000 submission.

“The bus fare review committee is committed in ensuring that we get as many feedback or views from Fijians as we can and at the end of the exercise we can make an informative decision.”

He said the most popular platform for the committee was the texting platform.

“On average we receive about 900 to 1000 text in a day and we receive about a 100 emails daily,” Mr Abraham said.

“People are putting in the effort through the different platforms offered and the service is free through any mobile network that the public might have.

“We will be talking to bus operators as well and they have been asked to give their views on bus fares. “Later this week we will be conducting a customer survey where our team will go to different bus stations or bus terminals to talk to the traveling public as they disembark or board the bus.”

He said the next stage would be for the committee to meet and deliberate on all the submissions done and undertake thorough analysis of what has been received.

“We will look at the submissions made by the bus company and look at the cost implications, the revenue generated and we will look at the affordability from members of the public and income dispersion at different areas,” he said.

“We are expecting to complete everything by the end of December to enable announcement for the bus fare to be made in January next year.”

Fiji Bus Operators Association administrator Uday Raj Singh said the bus operators are still compiling their submissions and would submit it to the bus fare review committee.

He said it was a good step by Government to have a bus fare review committee that would look into the issue particularly getting feedbacks from the public on issues they face because it would help in providing better service to the public.

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