FBOA calls for increase in busfare

Members of the Fiji Bus Operators Association executive committee following the annual general meeting at Novotel, Lami. Picture: SUPPLIED/FILE

THE Fiji Bus Operators Association is calling for an increase in busfare after the increase in fuel prices came into effect yesterday, for the third quarter in a row.

Fiji Bus Operators Association (FBOA) president Richard Lal said they were seeking an increase for the first time in more than nine years to keep the industry viable.

Mr Lal claimed bus operators have for almost a decade absorbed the rising costs of doing business, while continuing to maintain fares at the 2009 levels, as well as providing about $20 million annually in concessionary fares for school children and those on social welfare support.

“The Government and bus industry regulators have demanded improved transparency and accountability and this has been achieved with the introduction of electronic ticketing,” Mr Lal said.

“Bus operators have also been expected to improve service and fleet standards. However, to continue to do that, they urgently need to begin making a fair return, especially considering the other increased costs of doing business, such as driver wages and spare parts.

“These costs, made worse by increasing fuel price, have risen in the past decade, but fares do not reflect these changed circumstances. As we all appreciate, when fuel prices increase, all other costs go up.”

He said bus operators hoped to continue working closely with Government to address the issue of rising costs in a fair and equitable manner for the industry and the travelling public.

“Bus services in Fiji are largely operated by people whose families have been in the business for many decades and these operators share a close bond with the people they serve,” he said. “However, it has come to a point for many operators that in order to continue improving their services and remain viable, they need to be able to see some returns for their efforts.”

Mr Lal said bus operators hoped to be able to address this issue before it became problematic and began to affect business confidence in the sector.

Land Transport Authority (LTA) board chairman Vijay Maharaj said the fare increase did not fall under LTA, but the Fiji Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC).

“We have not received any application from them, so we really cannot comment on the issue at this stage,” Mr Maharaj said.

FCCC acting CEO Seymour Singh said the commission had not received any concern or submission from FBOA to increase busfares.

“Secondly, if such a submission has to be made, it has to be made to LTA that looks after busfares increase or decrease,” Mr Singh said.

Meanwhile, an independent committee, chaired by Mr Abraham was set up last year to review busfares. The committee conducted consultations around the country and also received submissions from the public.

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