Soon after the Pakatan-led Penang state government said it wanted to take over the ferry service, we now see the feds moving in, indicating their desire to take over the ferries through Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd. Prasarana, wholly owned by the Finance Ministry, is the asset owner of the bus services operated by Rapid KL and Rapid Penang.
This is reminiscent of how the feds moved in soon after the BN-led Penang government under Koh Tsu Koon indicated it wanted to set up its own state-owned bus service following numerous complaints about the privatised “cowboy”-style bus service. The Penang government’s plan to set up a state bus corporation was thwarted when the feds set up Rapid Penang, a subsidiary of Rangkaian Pengangkutan Integrasi Deras Sdn Bhd (Rapid KL), also wholly-owned by the Finance Ministry.
There is now also a move for Prasarana to take over both Rapid KL and Rapid Penang, ostensibly to give more financial muscle to these two entities.
While it is good for the Penang ferry and bus services to come under the same body as it could ensure better coordination and integration, that body should be owned and managed at the state level. In other words, the Penang bus and ferry services should come under a new body called Penang Transport Authority or Penang Public Transport Commission which should be owned at the local level.
If ever the Pakatan takes over at the federal level, one of the first things it should do is to transfer ownership and management of the ferry and bus services as well as the Penang Bridge back to the Penang state government or local authorities. That would lead to more accountability to the public and greater knowledge and responsiveness to local needs.