‘Where is the bus report’

THE Fiji Labour Party questioned what has happened to the report of a eight-member committee set up in October last year to review bus fares.

“The committee was set up with the intention of having a new fare structure in place by January 2018,” party leader Mahendra Chaudhry claimed.

“We understand the committee began public consultations on the subject in early November, travelling throughout the country. But nothing has been heard of since regarding the committee’s report following these consultations,” he said.

Mr Chaudhry said bus operators were citing recent increases in fuel price as justification for higher fares.

“However, fuel prices have been fluctuating for several years now. When fuel prices fell to their lowest levels last year, there was no consequential decrease in bus fares even though FLP had called for a fare review downwards,” he said.

“We must also realise that workers no longer get a cost of living adjustment to their wages so why should bus fares be pegged to increases in fuel price?” Mr Chaudhry asked.

He claimed the party noted that the fare structure approved by LTA in 2009 was heavily loaded in favour of the bus operators.

“It created widespread controversy, including blunt criticisms aired by the consumer council, ECREA and the Fiji Consumers Association,” he said.

“With the new stage markings approved by LTA, bus fares shot up from between 13 per cent to 65 per cent because of the merger of stages. “The effect of this was that a person travelling a distance of two kilometres ended up paying the same fare (70c) as another travelling more than twice that distance. “These lopsided merges have reportedly worked against the travelling public,” Mr Chaudhry claimed.

“Bus fares are a major cost component to the commuting public since both ordinary workers and adult students use buses regularly. Most of them will not be able to sustain an increase, considering the already high cost of living.”

Members of the review committee included governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji Faizul Ariff Ali, Fiji Revenue and Customs Service CEO Visvanath Das, Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma, former Consumer Council CEO Premila Kumar and Fiji Bus Operators Association president Richard Lal.