Penang ferries these days appear to be running at a slower speed compared to the 1970s.
In the 1970s, a one-way trip (from the time the siren is blared to allow ferries to leave until it reaches the other side and the ramp is lowered) used to take 13 minutes on average. (I know because I regularly timed it back then, having nothing else better to do while on board.)
Until recently, a one-way trip from embarkation to disembarkation used to take 20 minutes. So a return journey for a ferry would take 40 minutes.
But last week, the ferry appeared to be cruising at a snail’s pace. This wasn’t the first time I noticed the slow speed.
So I decided to ask the ferry crew on board what was going on. I found a group of them seated in a corner.
“Kenapa feri begitu perlahan?” I ventured.
They looked surprised that I had asked and their faces dropped (muka jatuh). “Itu arahan baru. Dulu feri ambil 20 minit (one-way). Sekarang pergi balik, satu jam,” one of them said dejectedly, while none of the others disputed his account.
“Kenapa arahan ini?”
“Ta tau. You telefon mereka dan complain-lah,” he pleaded.
I told them I had written about it and showed them what had been reported about the ferries in the online websites.
From the sound of it, they actually wanted me to complain, perhaps in the hope that the privatised PPSB management would listen. My hunch is that some of the crew are not happy.
And this was not the only occasion. Other crew members recently told a friend of mine to make some noise about the deplorable ferry service.
When I disembarked from the ferry, I checked the duration of the trip. It had taken 30 minutes from embarkation until I was out.
How does PPSB profit if ferries are slowed down? Simple. They probably figure they can cut losses and improve company profitability not only by reducing the number of ferries but also by reducing the number of trips each ferry makes.
So the longer each ferry takes to reach the other side, the fewer ferry trips are made in a day – and the lower the losses incurred by PPS.
Who cares if commuters suffer in the process? Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if even PPSB staff are avoiding the ferries even though they probably can use the priority lane at the terminals.
Oh, by the way, the ferry toll collector told me there were only three ferries in service last Sunday afternoon. So all four ferries appear to be in service only during peak hours and at other times, only zero (after operating hours) to three ferries are running. (In the 1970s and 1980s, there were at least a dozen ferries in operation.)
Not content with the ferry privatisation mess in Penang, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai now wants to allow privatised rail operators to affect KTMB’s operations. Enough of these privatisation debacles.
Hand over the port to Penang!