Silence at bus terminals


All’s quiet at the station: Empty seats and very few customers at the ticket counters in the Sungai Nibong express bus terminal. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: With almost no chance to balik kampung for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, express bus operators can only wait it out and serve passengers who need to travel for permitted reasons.

Express bus ticketing agent Mohamad Mizi, 52, said from 12 full busloads to Kuala Lumpur a day during Ramadan in previous years, he could only sell one, and it would not be always full.

“It’s like last year, no business bonuses for the festive period, ” said Mohamad, who has been in the job for almost 20 years.

But he said people were expecting this.

“Without Covid-19 cases dropping, people know interstate travel will not be likely, ” he said at Butterworth’s Penang Sentral recently.

The terminal was exceedingly quiet and the shutters were pulled down on some ticket counters.

But in Prangin Mall at the island’s Komtar, express bus agency manager K. Ganthimathi said she would still occasionally encounter customers who want to buy tickets without getting travel authorisation letters from the police.

“We always advise them to get police approval before buying tickets, ” she added.

She said her company strived to make sure every passenger it served was either a frontliner or essential service worker, or had permission to travel.

Ganthimathi said ticket prices such as from Penang to Kuala Lumpur had gone up now due to difficulties in getting buses filled.

“Tickets used to be RM38 and they are now RM48 due to increased operational costs and reduced revenue.

“Even if the bus has only a few passengers, we will still move, ” she added.

Last week, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the interstate travel ban will not be lifted for the Hari Raya season.

He said leisurely or social interstate travel was still not allowed, except for travel activities between recovery movement control order states under the green travel bubble concept through tour agencies registered with the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.

Only travel between districts within states is allowed, except in Sabah and Sarawak based on their state governments’ decisions.

Areas in states such as Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Penang and Sarawak are to remain under the conditional MCO until May 17.

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