PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The authorities in Malaysia in charge of road transport were taken to task for failing to introduce any meaningful improvements to safety, in particular among express buses.
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, expressed his disappointment with the authorities over their failure to implement the 51 recommendations of an independent advisory panel to prevent fatal accidents involving buses.
"If only some if not all of the recommendations had been implemented, we would not have to continue reading stories of fatal bus accidents in the papers," he said when contacted by The Star on Monday.
Following the recent spate of deadly bus accidents in the past few years, Mr Lee was made chair of the advisory panel set up to review and recommend improvements to this critical service.
He said it was sad if the efforts of the panel consisting of experts in various fields such as road and bus design, went to waste.
"Enough has been said about the issue with sufficient feedback and suggestions put forward," he said.
Mr Lee called on the authorities such as the Road Safety Department (JKJR), Puspakom, Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) and bus operators to begin implementing the recommendations before the next accident occurs.
Federation of Malaysia Consumers Association (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj said SPAD should review its function following its seeming inaction.
"SPAD has to be held accountable simply because they are the regulators of public transport in the country.
"They should take important steps now even if it is going to be unpopular with bus operators because the fate of the consumers should be put first above all," he said.
On Sunday, a double-decker express bus plunged down a slope along the Kuantan-Segamat trunk road causing the death of a passenger.
The bus was carrying about 40 people when it crashed near the Sungai Jernih plantation at around 4.40pm.
This was the third incident involving an express bus in Pahang over the past eight days.
An Etika Express bus crashed into a road divider on the East Coast Expressway and flipped over on Saturday, leaving most of its 28 passengers injured.
On April 12, a Transnasional double-decker bus hit an electric pole and overturned in Bentong, killing three passengers.
However, SPAD has warned that quick suspension of bus operators for infractions such as fatal bus accidents may lead to passengers stranded at bus terminals.
"If I suspend operators, the people will not have any transportation. I think we'll have to find a way, but we will see whether the suspension will work or not," said SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar.
Mr Syed Hamid added that bus licences and, in turn, their drivers come under the Public Service Vehicle category, which were not managed by SPAD, but by the Road Transport Department (JPJ).
He added that in principle, authorities such as JPJ and the police could conduct checks at all of the country's bus terminals, though this would be a difficult thing to do in practice.
He also advised bus drivers who felt like they were being forced to work to report these instances to the Human Resources Ministry.