Gov’t to develop bus interchanges

National 2 minutes, 31 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE Ministry of Communications (MinComm) will jointly develop proposed bus interchanges with the private sector through public-private partnership (PPP).

Communications Minister Yang Berhormat Dato Paduka Hj Mustappa Hj Sirat said as part of the $10 million overhaul of the public transport sector over the next three years, the ministry will re-draw bus routes and start using interchanges around the district instead of a central bus terminal.

The interchanges will be located where two or more bus routes overlap.

“If we want to maintain the frequency of every 15 minutes we will not be using the central terminal in Bandar... We want all the buses to keep going. There will be interchanges that connect all the various routes,” he told The Brunei Times in a recent interview.

YB Dato Hj Mustappa said the interchanges will be more than just bus shelters but will include amenities and information kiosks that will display bus timetables and when the next bus is scheduled to arrive.

“At all the interchanges there will be notices what time the next bus is coming. The timetable and everything it will be very much like bus services in developed countries, but in order to be sustainable we have to get as many riders as possible.”

He said the bus ridership has decreased from 3.2 million to 2.9 million over the past year, but that MinComm aims to increase ridership to five million to make public transport sustainable.

The ministry also aims to use an “intelligent transport system” that will track the punctuality of buses and the number of riders to see which routes are most popular.

“Planning the routing is very tricky and we want to ensure the smooth flow of the buses,” said YB Dato Hj Mustappa.

He added that while the government will plan the routes, bus operations will be leased out to private contractors.

“With this mixed economic system, the government will regulate and it will be run by private operators by lease,” said the minister. “This is a shift in policy, moving away from the current system where the sector is decided by market forces – supply and demand – where they see opportunity they operate. But that doesn’t help grow the transport sector.”

“What we need to do now is – if I can call it government intervention – is regulate the system in the hope that it can improve services, making it more reliable to use by the public and over time, the sector will grow.”

A Land Transport Authority will be established this year to oversee the regulation and expansion of the public transport sector.

The proposed body aims to improve reliability of public transport by regulating bus routes and schedules to establish better connectivity.

YB Dato Hj Mustappa said the transport sector can be an important economic driver, with MinComm contributing $600 million, or three per cent of GDP, to the domestic economy in the past year.

“The opportunity is huge. If you organise the public transport system, it can be another economic fundamental in the country.”

The Brunei Times