The Fiji Bus Operators Association is calling on the Land Transport Authority and government stakeholders to act urgently to avert a full-scale collapse of the bus industry as the latest operator ceased services last week.
Fears of the collapse of the bus industry first raised 10 years ago are being borne out by the closure of three bus companies over the past months.
FBOA President Nisar Ali Shah has called on Land Transport Authority chief executive Samuel Simpson to work harder to bring all stakeholders together to resolve issues that are damaging the bus industry.
“Enough letters, Simpson! We want to sit, talk and resolve all outstanding matters between our members, the LTA and the government. This is an emergency and needs to be handled like an emergency. The time for letters is long gone, we need some action,” Shah said.
“So, it is not helpful that in a time of crisis, LTA Chief Executive, Samuel Simpson engages in letter writing and threats to the bus operator concerned,” Mr Shah said.
“Simpson should read the Bus Industry Review of October 2009 which the LTA themselves commissioned.”
The report stated among other things that: “Fiji has a history of good bus services with affordable, safe, regular and dependable buses reaching 95% of the population. Private companies run bus services with low levels of subsidy. Passengers considered bus services beneficial, safe and affordable but they also wanted clean, safe, modern and comfortable buses. Bus passengers sometimes used minibuses to save time. The good, reliable timetabled services at controlled fares have developed over many years due to conscientious operators and effective regulation for routes, prices, safety and competition.
“The bus industry was protected from excessive competition, but now faces increasing competition from legal and illegal minibuses (mainly operating on tar roads) and carriers (light trucks that carry goods and people on poor roads). Deteriorating road conditions increase operating costs and make some routes unviable. Operating costs have risen faster than income, resulting in an aging fleet that has compromised passenger safety.
“The industry is at a critical stage, and could collapse due to the low profits, deteriorating roads and competition from carriers and minibuses.”
Shah said: “Two years ago, the new fares were agreed to, but we are still waiting for it to be published in the gazette and we do not have any idea what is going to be gazetted and when. Had the LTA applied a little more energy than they have done, perhaps the bus companies would have survived.
“I would like to invite the CEO of LTA and the Minister for the Economy to meet with us immediately and talanoa until we resolve these issues and agree to an action plan to implement them.”
The Land Transport Authority will comment on this issue today.