New bus system: Twelve accidents cloud first day

Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Issue 1373, Page 3
Word count: 1118
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The revamped public bus system failed to please some passengers especially during rush hour yesterday morning mainly due to long waiting times and incorrect deductions of bus fares in the stored value smart cards (Macau Pass).

Director of the Transport Bureau (DSAT) Wong Wan admitted that “quite a lot of problems” had occurred in the first day of the new bus service, including accidents that injured two people, faulty Macau Pass readers and low service frequencies.

He expressed his apologies twice to affected passengers, in the morning when inspecting the bus services in Rua do Campo and also at the afternoon press conference.

According to the DSAT director, 12 bus-related accidents – “mostly minor” – were reported yesterday. Two people were “slightly injured” – an elderly woman who fell on a Reolian bus and a scooter rider who had a “small collision” also with a Reolian bus – but Wong said the causes of the accidents were not yet confirmed.

Faulty Macau Pass readers were also found on some of the Reolian buses yesterday. Some passengers using the stored value smart cards could not benefit from the interchange concessions that they were entitled to and some other passengers were given a free bus ride by the operator because the card readers were not functioning properly.

Wong said the bureau has immediately requested the Macau Pass company to initiate refund procedures, but is still unclear about how much money is involved.

Macau Pass users who had incorrect second deductions call the DSAT hotline on 88666363 to arrange for a refund.

With regard to the free rides given to some passengers, Wong admitted that public funds will have to be spent but stressed that it is the bus companies’ priority to maintain regular services and a malfunctioning card reader was “not the passenger’s fault”.

Under the new service model, all bus fares collected will be distributed to the government and the government will in turn pay the three companies about MOP 4.7 billion over the course of the next seven years to run their services.

Reolian, which is responsible for the running of 26 routes, will receive MOP 1.64 billion; Transmac, serving 21 routes, will receive MOP 2.33 billion; and TCM will receive MOP 811 million to operate 13 routes.

Not satisfactory

In addition, the DSAT chief pointed out that the service frequencies of “one fifth” of the bus routes were “not even sufficient”, whereas the remaining “four-fifths” reached a satisfactory level.

The “one-fifth” of routes mostly involved “long itineraries”, he said, adding that Reolian services were mainly hindered by “unskilled mobilisation of buses” whilst the services of Transmac and TCM were primarily affected by “road conditions”.

“Today’s [yesterday’s] services didn’t meet our satisfaction and standards […] there is of course room for improvement,” he said.

Wong told reporters during the morning inspection he noticed that new drivers “lacked confidence” in approaching bus stops, taking longer time to park and allow passengers to board.

He assured that the bureau “does not mind” the less experienced drivers spending more time at each bus stop, stressing that “safety” is of utmost importance.

A meeting with the three operators was held in the afternoon amid the string of problems. Wong said the service frequencies of routes MT1, MT2 and MT3 between the Macau peninsula and Taipa have been increased promptly, and Transmac had also been requested to increase the services of routes 34 (between Ocean Gardens and the Border Gate) and 25 (between the Border Gate and Hac Sa Beach) “more flexibly” depending on demands.

The bureau director added that overall service frequencies have increased when compared to last month, as all of the Reolian drivers who were previously undertaking training were on the road yesterday.

However, Wong admitted that newcomer Reolian had reported “relatively many problems”, but said they were within government’s expectations.

He said the government and the bus companies have tried to solve problems promptly but “it doesn’t necessarily mean that new problems will not emerge afterwards”.

The most important task at this stage, according to Wong, is to help Reolian tackle bus mobilisation arrangements in order to increase its service frequencies.

“There are many buses on the road but they have to operate effectively and in a regular pattern,” he told reporters.

Diverse feedback

At about 4.30pm at the bus terminal of route No. 1A in NAPE, about 40 people formed a long queue on the street waiting to board, in spite of the fact that there were at least four No. 1A buses parked there.

Among the outraged passengers was Mr Tsang who complained that he had waited for more than half an hour but the driver still did not open the bus doors and allow them to board.

Another middle-aged woman, who did not want to be named, said she could not get onto the Reolian buses in the morning as “all of them were full”.

On the contrary, Mr Lei told the Macau Daily Times he was “quite satisfied” with the revamped bus services. Not only has the waiting time been shortened, he said the drivers attitude was also “greatly improved” since “there is more competition now”.

Mr Vong, a Year 12 student studying in the UK but enjoying his summer vacation back home in Macau at the moment, caught bus No. 17 at around 9am. He said the waiting time was cut nearly in half from an average of 15 minutes to just around 7 minutes yesterday.

The teenager said the overall bus services were “okay”, but he hoped that every bus stop in the city possessed the system that advises the length of waiting time until the next bus arrival.

Meanwhile, Mrs Ho, at 74, told the MDTimes she felt “more comfortable” riding the buses because they are now “bigger” and felt “less crowded” than before.

She said the Reolian buses were “not much different” from those of the other two companies, “it’s more or less the same, passengers just get on board and then get off”.

Yet, the retiree said she hoped there will be more routes serving San Ma Lou and Avenida do Conselheiro Ferreira de Almeida (commonly known as ‘Ho Lan Yuen’).

On the other hand, Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io went to inspect the operations at the Barra and Praça de Ferreira do Amaral bus stops yesterday and talked to drivers and staff from the three companies and also some passengers.

The secretary emphasised that the change in the bus service model is a “major starting point” to encourage the use of public transportation in Macau, and therefore relative departments will “continue to improve the work” during which “understanding and support” from local people is required.

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