WE refer to the letter, "Public Transport: Use gas or bio-diesel-run buses" (NST, June 12).
Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd (Prasarana), which will be introducing electric buses in its operations, wants to reiterate its commitment to promote green technology.
Our Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project is a serious business venture and marks the beginning of a new era in public transportation.
The deployment of electric buses under the BRT project will not only be a showcase for green technology, but also serve as a pilot project for future operational performance of electric buses in the country.
The operation of buses, which will be under subsidiary RapidKL, is in line with the company's effort to reduce the level of harmful gases emitted by diesel-powered buses.
While the initial investment is big, it will be more economical compared with the maintenance of diesel-powered buses that require top overhaul of engines every 21/2 years and complete overhaul of engines every five years.
When we compare the 10-year life cycle of both buses, the electric bus is cheaper and helps eliminate a lot of these maintenance and invisible costs such as breakdowns. Plus, it emits no gas at all.
The new BRT-Sunway Line project -- a public-private partnership project between Prasarana, a government-owned company and Sunway Bhd -- will involve 15 electric buses running on dedicated guideways and passing through strategic places in Bandar Sunway with a length of more than 6km.
The BRT is a fully rapid transit system, combining the excellent features of rail systems with flexibility and cost savings of using over-the-road and environmentfriendly vehicles that operate on their own roadways and lanes, thus maximising speed and service.
Construction work is scheduled to commence in the second quarter of next year and is expected to be completed by 2014.
The letter writer, Tai Hean Kiat of Sungai Buloh, Selangor, said it was pointless to deploy a handful of electric buses to showcase green technology when the rest of the bus service is hamstrung by a shortage of drivers.
The shortage of drivers cannot be used as an excuse to deny advancement in technology.
We fully support his views pertaining to bringing in foreign drivers since there is an acute shortage of drivers within the industry, which is seriously affecting the efficiency of the industry.
On that score, since RapidKL is running its own driving academy, we are in the best position to bring in and train foreign drivers.
In fact, Prasarana plans to submit applications to the government to allow recruitment of foreign drivers.
Tai said RapidKL and private-sector operators had hundreds of buses lying idle. This is a direct result of the driver shortage experienced nationwide and it needs to be addressed urgently.
In most advanced countries where public transport is a major concern and on the national agenda, foreign workers are sought to fill up the position of drivers when locals deem the position on the lower end of the vocation strata.
All operators have the accountability to provide better service to the public and this effort must also be assisted by the authorities, especially the Land Public Transport Commission in ensuring sustainability of services offered.
Subsidies in operating cost in the form of diesel enjoyed by operators do not necessarily cover all expenses in providing a quality service.
In the situation where shortage of drivers is acute, operators sometimes are happy just to have their drivers turning up for work.
The shortage will snowball into more disciplinary issues and operators will, to some extent, take serious action, which may result in dismissal and difficulty in getting replacements and loss of operational days for the operator, or suffer the risk of a deteriorating level of service by not taking action.
Zohari Sulaiman, Group Director for Bus Division, Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad, Kuala Lumpur