BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Annual bus patronage dropped by half to one million rides in 2020, according to the Minister of Transport and Infocommunication (MTIC).

Speaking during a meeting of the Legislative Council on Tuesday, YB Abdul Mutalib POKSSDP Hj Mohammad Yusof said on average public buses see two million rides per year, but COVID-19 may have played a role in shrinking ridership.

The minister was responding to a question raised by YB Iswady Ahmad regarding the progress of Brunei’s public transport system.

“Locals are using our buses,” the minister stressed. “Perhaps our youth do not find it glamorous to take the bus — and don’t mind me for saying this — but the thing to do now is to make it cool to ride on the bus.”

Currently, MTIC and its stakeholders are mulling foreign direct investment to improve the public transport system.

“The implementation of the public transport system needs high investment,” YB Abdul Mutalib said. “We want to enhance the bus services. It’s true, it’s not visible yet but we are trying to do this incrementally.”

The minister said MTIC has also tapped a local company to develop software for bus schedules, which should be launched by the third quarter of the year.

“We also hope to see improvement in our bus operators as well. From time to time, we have discussions with them and ask for their feedback on how to improve the image of buses,” he added.

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

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 percent of 2,212 respondents from a transport attitude survey said that they use their cars “all the time”.