LTA is misleading the public on Bus ticket rule

12/08/2009 10:08

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has once again subjected the travelling public into ever-expanding cycle of confusion and misinformation.

LTA spokesman, Eroni Volavola in today’s Fiji Times (‘Authority clarifies legality of bus fare tickets’, p.3) says it is not an offence for drivers not to issue tickets for bus fares because it is only a condition and not a piece of law. The LTA has now totally contradicted itself as LTA had made it an offence (with penalties attached) if tickets are not issued. The sticker notice attached, which was published and distributed by the LTA for all buses (currently pasted on buses) clearly stipulates that “it is an offence, if you don’t DEMAND for a TICKET”. It also stipulates a “fixed penalty of $50 or $500 maximum FINE”

LTA had informed bus operators on July 28, 2008 that under Regulation 7 (4) of the Land Transport (Public Service Vehicle) Regulation 2000 bus drivers and/or conductors must issue a ticket to all fare paying passengers. (Letter/Notice attached). It also stipulated that non-complying drivers will be booked and issued on-spot fines of $50 to a maximum of $500. LTA also indicated that bus companies who fail to ensure tickets are provided would be fined and issued with a Traffic Infringement Notice.

Just because the Council highlighted that LTA erred by allowing bus operators to charge new fares without issuing the bus tickets, LTA has now responded in their defence that “issuing tickets for bus fares is not an offence”.  For the LTA to say that it is “not an offence for drivers not to issue tickets … because it is “not a piece of the law” is misleading and false. LTA is becoming a laughing stock and master of contradictions.

According to The Fiji Times dated 26 September 2008 (pg4), LTA charged eight bus drivers for not issuing tickets to passengers. From the eight drivers, only one sought assistance from the Consumer Council. Should we now believe that LTA was harassing the drivers unnecessarily and acting illegally then?

Furthermore, LTA says that the reason for passengers to demand tickets is because of the “leakage of money with the drivers” and that the “bus operators needed a certain level of funds to continue operations, but once the funds started to decrease, they turned to the Authorities for an increase in bus fares”.

So now the rationale for increase in bus fare is out in the open. It seems operators cannot address fraud and pilferage within their own industry so the burden is placed on the public to meet this shortfall in revenue collection through increased fares. LTA is making public responsible through increased fares while the government is equally responsible to pinch by giving concessions and subsidies.

However, when will the bus industries take responsibility?

Will the public and government be always forced to cough up the extra funds to run the industry viably and cover up the prevailing financial mismanagement and inefficiencies?

What is even more disturbing is that LTA is referring to ticketing as the only way to prove the number of people travelling and the amount of money the operator is supposed to receive. This is totally absurd and naive!

The burden of revenue collection rests with the business operator not the consumer! Any business will put in measures to protect their income from fraud and pilferage and so, why is the bus industry not doing the same?

It is rather strange that ticketing machines or pre-paid tickets are not used by the industry to ensure money is not exchanged between the driver and the consumer. LTA is expecting public or the government through the tax payer’s money to share the burden BUT the industry remains ignorant and unaccountable through their bad business practices.

The bus ticketing notice was part of a joint initiative of the LTA, the Consumer Council and the Fiji Bus Operators Association to create awareness and inform both passengers and bus drivers on the legal importance of the tickets. It created accountability for all stakeholders, the passengers, the drivers as well as the operators.

With the recent statements issued by LTA, the Council and consumers feel betrayed by the LTA and demand the Minister of Transport to clear the air on the issuing of bus tickets to the travelling public. Otherwise, review a way to make the industry accountable. Pilferage and abuse by drivers is not consumers or government’s fault. Why should they pay for someone else’s blunder?