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Buses in Asia - first hand discussion

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  • On Behalf Of Brendan Finn and Sustran
    If you click over to the New Mobility Cafe - http://newmobility.org then click on left menu Talking New Mobility -- you will see a first rate series of
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 21, 2004
      If you click over to the New Mobility Cafe - http://newmobility.org then
      click on left menu Talking New Mobility -- you will see a first rate
      series of exchanges on this topic that I would urge you not to miss,
      that got started on Sustran Network and which is now continuing on both.
      First rate. An example follows to whet your appetite.

      -----Original Message-----
      On Behalf Of Brendan Finn
      Sent: Saturday, November 20, 2004 6:08 PM
      To: Asia and the Pacific sustainable transport

      Asia is a big place, with a lot of diversity. Which part of Asia do you
      want to look at - India, China, Indonesia, Central Asia, the Middle East
      ? Also, which sort of buses - urban, rural, intercity ? I guess when I
      saw your request, the first thing that occurred to me was that you
      wanted just the bad stuff, but I presume that you actually want any

      I think it would be useful (and maybe fairer as well) to differentiate
      between problems with people which can also happen on the bus (maybe a
      crowded bus gives extra opportunities), and problems with the buses and

      I spend a lot of time in Central Asia (the 'Stans), most recently in
      Kazakhstan. Travel on the urban buses is generally safe, both in terms
      of accident risk and from unwanted attentions. Big buses are fine, and
      reasonably comfortable, even if a little old. There has been a
      proliferation on small buses (route-taxis or marshrutki) in recent
      years. The drivers are less well trained, the conditions more cramped,
      and it's herder to figure where you are or where you're going.
      Nonetheless, safety is reasonably good. Among other data, I collected
      information on the number of fatalities and serious injuries involving
      urban public transport in a number of Kazakh cities. They range from
      zero to 4 fatalities in a year. Taking into account the mileage, and
      calculating an overall fatalities per 10 million miles, the figures were
      just a little worse than Dublin, where I'm from. My experience of the
      transport authorities is that they make quite reasonable efforts to
      enforce basic safety and technical quality of the vehicles doing urban
      transport, although they have less control over the vehicles entering
      the city form outside.

      The intercity services are somewhat different, being effectively a
      deregulated market. Vehicles are old, and of varying quality. Safety is
      not at the same level as in the cities. I used a number of buses between
      the North-East and East cities. From the passenger's perspective, there
      is some discomfort, especially caused by poor ventilation. However, I
      never felt that any threat, hostility or risk of theft either on the
      buses or in the bus stations (although some were a bit scruffy, and
      could be intimidating to people not used to them). I have been on buses
      with no brakes, no windscreen, one driven by a driver clearly getting
      his first lesson, and so forth, but I have not witnessed reckless
      driving, or heard concerns among people about safety. I found the
      passengers friendly and chatty to each other and to me, and that there
      was a general 'camaraderie of the road'.

      I would make similar comments about the urban transport services in
      Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan where I have also lived and worked, but I
      don't have first-hand experience or really know the intercity services
      in those countries.

      My limited experience of intercity, coach and urban bus services in
      Malaysia has all been very positive. Sometimes it's a little creaky at
      the seams, especially in the lower used and lower-tariff services, but
      I've never seen either poor quality vehicles or reckless driving. In
      fact, in places such as Kuching and Kota Kinabalu (Malaysian Borneo)
      I've been really impressed by the driving standards of the minibus

      By contrast, Sri Lanka is worrying. There are two sectors - the
      more-or-less state sector that are part of the former (?) Ceylon
      Transport Board. These are the 'peoplised' companies, and have about
      6.000 buses. Generally, the vehicles are maintained OK and driven
      somewhere between OK and OK-ish. By contrast, the private operators -
      maybe 6,000+ vehicles - have no such restraint, and drive recklessly.
      This leads to many accidents and many fatalities. Traffic levels on Sri
      Lankan roads requires playing chicken to overtake, and lets just say
      there are lots of feathers around. When I was there in June 2002, every
      day in the paper there were articles and/or editorials complaining about
      the seriousness of the problem, and there were reports of fatalities -
      invariably head-ons.

      I hope this is of help for your article.

      Brendan Finn.
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