BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Land Transport Department (LTD) is pushing for technology-based solutions to increase the reliability of public transport and reduce car dependency in the sultanate.

Acting Director of LTD Pg Mohd Amirizzal Pg Hj Mahmud, acknowledged that there are still gaps in the country’s public transport sector — particularly its reliability — not only due to the lack of IT implementation but also in terms of infrastructure.

“At the moment, passengers are unable to know when buses will arrive or depart which reduces trust in our public transport system,” he said in an interview with The Scoop.

Making the bus system more reliable, attractive

Dubbed the Intelligent Transport System (ITS), the acting director said it will overhaul the current public transport system. With ITS, passengers are privy to real time information on public bus services through the use of GPS.

According to the 2014 Land Transport Masterplan, 44 per cent of bus users surveyed were unsatisfied with the frequency of bus services in the country and 40 per cent were left unsatisfied with its reliability.

The same report also showed that Brunei residents relied largely on their cars for transport with 80 per cent of 2, 212 respondents from a transport attitude survey said that they use their cars “all the time”.

Ultimately the department is banking on the use of IT to encourage more bus ridership amongst the public adding that research done by the department showed an actual demand for public transport among Bruneians, particular those who commute from one district to another.

This would be a welcomed development, he added, as currently bus users in the country predominantly comprise low income expatriate workers.

“We want to implement IT in all aspects [of our public transport sector], it is an idea formed from observing the public transport practices in other countries as well as from discussions we have had with [transportation] companies that have utilised this system”.

Future passenger terminals will also be included in the upgrade, said the acting director. He disclosed plans to display bus schedules as well as the real time location of bus locations, adding that passengers can also expect to go cashless when using bus services in the future as the ITS will include an e-ticketing system using pre-paid smart cards.

Plans to realise the Intelligent Transport System

The LTD will begin issuing tenders in the coming months, calling for interested parties to manage new bus routes that have been identified by the LTD as well as the purchase of new buses.

According to Pg Mohd Amirizzal, based on research conducted in 2015, the department has identified 13 new intra-district bus routes to add to the existing 29, making a total of 42 bus routes in Brunei Darussalam.

New inter-district (district to district) routes have also been identified and has been increased to six routes from the previous two.

With the betterment of public transport services in mind, the tenders that will be issued is “opened for all” including local and foreign companies.

The department is even encouraging the participation of international transportation companies to establish joint ventures with locals in order to make use of their “knowledge and experience”.

The acting director is hopeful that once all public transport initiatives are activated that it would allow the public to make use of buses which may aid in decreasing traffic congestion in the country as well as reduce road accidents, especially to those using the Muara-Tutong highway.

A 2016 report published by the Oxford Business Group, private car ownership in Brunei Darussalam grew by 19 per cent between 2011 and 2014.

Based on 2017 statistics published by the Land Transport Department, the total number of vehicles registered in the country stands at 408, 969, compared to the country’s population of 425,000.

“Looking at the public transport sector of other countries, they are advanced [than ours] so the inclusion of foreign companies can help better our public transport services, as long as they follow the requirement set by us and establish proper collaborations with local companies”.

Currently there are only six bus companies nationwide actively managing the existing routes with more than a hundred buses.

According to Pg Mohd Amirizzal more than 200 buses are needed to service the new routes.

The department is working on a number of new transport services slated to be launched by next year, among them is the installation of 1, 618 bus shelters and bus poles that will accommodate the new bus routes identified by the department.