KUCHING: Sarawak has launched a free school bus service for students in Kuching to reduce the financial burden of low-income families.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the service would initially cover 30 primary and secondary schools in Kuching and the adjacent Padawan district.
"This is one way for us to help lower-income families and lessen their burden in terms of school bus expenses for their children.
"Families have to spend about RM80 to RM100 a month for one child's school bus fares. If they have more children, they have to pay quite a substantial amount.
"Now they will be given free school bus service and the cost will be borne by the state government," he said when launching the service at the Yayasan Sarawak building here on Wednesday (July 15).
Abang Johari said the state government had allocated RM5mil for the service in Kuching.
He said it would be extended to other urban areas once it had proven to be efficient in the state capital.
"Kuching is our test bed. Once it is efficient, the next one will be Miri and Sibu," he said.
The free school bus service was announced as an initiative in the 2020 state budget tabled by Abang Johari last November.
Yayasan Sarawak director Azmi Bujang said a total of 46 buses and vans would serve 22 routes covering 18 zones in Kuching and Padawan.
He said Yayasan Sarawak was implementing the service in collaboration with local authorities,
namely the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation, state Education Department and Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board.
"We are working with the Kuching and Samarahan Bumiputera Bus Operators Association at this initial stage.
"Once the programme takes off after this, other school bus operators who want to be involved in it can apply to us and we will see how we can accommodate more operators," he said.
Azmi also said the free school bus service came with a mobile app to track the movement of the buses.
"This is for parents to monitor where the bus is as well as for Yayasan Sarawak to monitor the performance of the bus drivers," he said.
The bus routes and schedules are also available on the app.