No let-up in illegal bus fare hikes

Fare-gouging is the worst problem in Yangon public transport, the head of the region’s transportation regulatory body said yesterday. Passengers are complaining that they are sometimes charged double the posted fare at night, or in heavy congestion.

U Hla Aung, chair of the Yangon Region Supervisory Committee for Motor Vehicles, better known by its Myanmar acronym Ma Hta Tha, said overcharging was the most common customer complaint received by the committee.

“It’s still going on. Some people just pay what they are asked, but some complain to us. Of all the feedback that we receive, complaints about overcharging top the list,” he said.

Ordinary buses charge fares that rise with distance in increments of K50, while special buses, which are supposed to offer seats and air conditioning but rarely do, charge K200-K300 per trip. Fares are set by the Yangon Region government.

Overcharging typically takes place at night, in defiance of Ma Hta Tha instructions.

“Passengers say the conductors threaten to turn passengers off the bus if they don’t pay the extra K50 or K100. For some of our customers, K100 is a lot. We are trying to find a way of dealing with this problem,” U Hla Aung said.

Even those who can afford it object to the exploitation of passengers.

“Last week I took the Mittar Hlaing 2 city bus from North Dagon at 8pm. When I tried to pay the conductor the fare, which I know is K100, he demanded K200, saying they always charged that after 8pm and everybody paid it. He was so rude. I’m sick of public transport,” said Ma Htar Kalar Oo of North Dagon township.

Attempts to introduce an e-ticket system last year rapidly foundered, partly for technical reasons and partly because fares are so low. Issuing paper tickets would cost a significant proportion of the face value of the ticket.

“Foreign transportation experts advise us to charge at least US$1 for the bus fare. But we can’t. We need to consider our country’s situation. For $1, you can buy dinner here. For some people, it’s their entire daily income,” said U Hla Aung.

Ma Hta Tha will fine offenders K30,000 in proven cases of overcharging, and can also take a conductor off the road for a month. Unrepentant conductors complain about the penalties, saying they should not be fined K30,000 for overcharging K50.

“They break the rules and complain when they’re punished,” said U Hla Aung. “If they don’t want to pay the fine, they should follow the rules.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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