SIGNS of the Chinese New Year balik kampung rush can already be seen at Puduraya and the row of ticketing parlours opposite the bus station.
Hordes of bus operators, each armed with a walkie-talkie, are stationed at various spots stopping passers-by to solicit business while others are calling out for potential customers from inside the counters.
Similar number of customers are seen popping from one parlour to another to check the rates.
The good thing is, bus fares are still reasonable at this moment.
StarMetro checked the rates at more than 10 such counters. A one-way bus ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru on Super VIP Coach on Feb 16 is at the most RM30 while it is around RM25 during the non-holiday period.
“RM30 is normal la, some of them are selling at RM40 and RM50, it is Chinese New Year ma,” said a counter attendant, trying to convince potential customers.
“Ours are guaranteed to be Super VIP Coach, unlike some of them, they may give you school or factory buses last minute!
“I'm letting you know now, if your ticket does not state any plate number, you better be careful,” another said.
“The buses for Feb 15, 16 and 17 are almost full, this is the best rate we can offer,” a man explained.
Buyers interviewed said they could accept the slight increase as it was the norm during festive seasons, and there was not much difficulty getting the tickets.
“I bought my ticket back to Kluang for the same amount,” said insurance agent Wong Eng Hock, 20.
“Maybe that's because I am early this year, I've learned my lesson. Last year, I bought the ticket on the eve, the fare was double and I had to stand all the way back home in an old, non-air-conditioned bus.
“I had no choice, to be home in time for reunion dinner is the most important thing,” he said.
The management of Puduraya Station, Uda Mall Sdn Bhd's property management assistant manager Mohd Zamri Mapol advised the balik kampung crowd to buy only from counters carrying company names.
“Do not buy from touts who approach you in corners, and show no company name or registration number. Not only will you avoid being cheated, the original tickets have insurance coverage, as well,” he explained.
He added that the management had stationed 20 security guards and eight house detectives to chase away touts, but they had no right to charge them.
According to him, buses in Puduraya make 1,500 to 2,000 outbound trips, compared to only 800 on weekdays and 1,000 on weekends.
There are 118 ticketing counters in Puduraya, operated by 100 bus companies.
“There will be enough buses to cater to the balik kampung crowd, as it was during Hari Raya and Deepavali.
“We have been flooded by calls from bus companies applying to send in extra buses, and the requests have not stopped yet,” he said.
WITH tickets secured, passengers should be able to board the buses they were promised but some found out only at the last minute that they were travelling on school or factory buses.
“I was not told that it's going to be a bas tambahan (additional bus). In fact, they even hiked up the price,” said a passenger who wished to remain anonymous.
She lamented her past experiences travelling on weekends and around the festive season.
“I bought the tickets from the counters, not from the touts. I feel cheated,”
Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) chairman Datuk Markiman Kobiran said although the board would issue Temporary Variation Permits to express bus operators to use school or factory buses during the festive season to cater to the large demand, they were required to offer lower prices.
It is also a measure to prevent passengers from buying overpriced tickets from errant bus operators.
He stressed that the board was monitoring the situation of express bus operators charging exorbitant rates during festive seasons, adding that the board would compound, issue warning, suspend or revoke their licences if they were found guilty.
“Just report to CVLB if the passenger is overcharged or not given what he or she was promised, and the board will take action,” he said when contacted.
Markiman added that the board would be deploying its officers, as well as those from the police and Road Transport Department, to monitor traffic conditions at Puduraya during the festive season.
On the lookout for ticket cheatsWITH tickets secured, passengersshould be able to board the busesthey were promised but somefound out only at the last minutethat they were travelling on schoolor factory buses.
“I was not told that it's going tobe a bas tambahan (additional bus).In fact, they even hiked up theprice,” said a passenger whowished to remain anonymous.
She lamented her past experiencestravelling on weekends andaround the festive season.“I bought the tickets from thecounters, not from the touts. I feelcheated,” Commercial Vehicle LicensingBoard (CVLB) chairman DatukMarkiman Kobiran said althoughthe board would issue TemporaryVariation Permits to express busoperators to use school or factorybuses during the festive season tocater to the large demand, theywere required to offer lower prices.
It is also a measure to preventpassengers from buying overpricedtickets from errant busoperators.
He stressed that the board wasmonitoring the situation of expressbus operators charging exorbitantrates during festive seasons,adding that the board would compound,issue warning, suspend orrevoke their licences if they werefound guilty.
“Just report to CVLB if the passengeris overcharged or not givenwhat he or she was promised, andthe board will take action,” he saidwhen contacted.
Markiman added that the boardwould be deploying its officers, aswell as those from the police andRoad Transport Department, tomonitor traffic conditions atPuduraya during the festive season.