GEORGE TOWN: The Transport Ministry has given its assurance that the upcoming implementation of e-haling motorcycle services in the country would not be done at the cost of safety.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke said many safety features would be incorporated into the new public transport service.
He said he was aware of concerns and sensitivities raised over male riders carrying female pillion riders, particularly by Selangor Mufti Datuk Mohd Tamyes Abd Wahid.
"However, we see that there are many benefits which can be derived from the service and this is a positive development.
"We will discuss all this... we will come out with a mechanism which will address the issues raised," he said when asked to comment on concerns raised by the mufti.
Mohd Tamyes had said that the service was un-Islamic and inappropriate.
The Cabinet had recently given the go-ahead for the implementation of motorcycle e-hailing services in the country, with the Transport Ministry tasked with conducting a detailed research and produce a report on the service within a month.
Loke also denied that he had made a U-turn on the implementation of the service.
"Some people reminded me of what I had said in Parliament in the past about motorcycle e-hailing services. I know I had said that I would not allow it. There is no need to remind me of what I said.
"But this is the Cabinet's collective decision. When the Cabinet decides and makes a collective decision, all ministries will have to follow. This is not a U-turn.
"We will do our best for this service without compromising on the safety aspect. That is what we are looking at. In fact, I have told my officers that we must seize the chance to turn this challenge into an opportunity. An opportunity on how we can change riders' attitude.
"Maybe with this service, they will be more responsible when riding their machines," he said.
Loke was met after launching the unlimited travel Mutiara Pass for Rapid Penang and Rapid Ferry at the Rapid Penang terminal in Weld Quay here today.
Present were Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow as well as Prasarana Malaysia Bhd Group president and chief executive officer Datuk Mohammed Hazlan Mohamed Hussain.
Asked if the Mutiara pass would make a difference in drawing commuters to use public transportation given that not many people are doing so now, and whether congestion charges would be imposed on private vehicles to encourage greater use of public transport, Loke said there are no plans to introduce the congestion charge anywhere for the time being.
He said the government had introduced numerous initiatives to encourage the people to use public transport.
"One of the reasons we have to attract people to use public transport is that it must be affordable and convenient. Of course we understand that we can't provide 100 per cent convenience, but we hope this monthly pass can reduce the people's monthly expenditure. That will be the first step to attract people to use public transport.
"This is why we go big as far as affordability is concerned, but of course at the same time, we are looking at connectivity and integration in terms of other transport modes. All that has to be taken into consideration and we will improve from time to time.
"We have no plans to impose congestion charges for the time being as we believe that when you want to introduce something, there must be an alternative. Right now, I think we are not in any position yet to impose such a charge," he added.
On the proposed Kulim International Airport (KXP), Loke said no decision has been made yet and discussion is ongoing.
Loke was also asked on his "change of heart" by approving the light rail transit (LRT) scheme for Penang despite having said earlier that LRT may not be the best option for the state.
He explained that the LRT project was initiated by the state government and is not a federal project.
"If they fulfil all conditions, we can give approval. So, it is not for me to decide whether to go ahead with the LRT or other systems. My personal opinion does not matter.
"The Penang government represents the people of Penang, who gave them the mandate. They are ones to decide. Not me. We are just regulators," he said.
During a visit to the state last September, Loke had said that the LRT was not the best option for Penang. He said this was the finding from a study conducted by the now-decommissioned Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).