By Jack Lapidus
AROUND 144,000 students from 32 schools in Kuching can rest easy knowing they will be able to get to school safe and on time with the free school bus service starting next month.
According to Borneo Post, there will be 21 routes covering 18 zones, available in three shifts – 5.30am to 7am for morning shift, afternoon (11.30am to 2.30pm) and evening (5pm to 7pm).
The buses will have “Free School Bus Service” stickers on the front, back and both sides of each bus – making it easier for students to identify them.
Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said under the programme, a fleet of 32 buses will be operated by service provider Kuching-Samarahan Divisions Bumiputera School Bus Operators Association, as a start.
“We will start in Kuching as a test bed. Once everything is running smoothly, the model can be used in other cities and towns in Sarawak,” he said.
A tracking devices would be installed in every school bus to allow the bus association to track the movement of the buses and ensure the drivers will not take any shortcuts.
The free school bus programme is aimed at providing a convenient traveling mode to and from schools to lessen the financial burden of low-income families and reduce traffic congestion in the city.
Yayasan Sarawak has been entrusted to manage the programme, which is still being tweaked for improvements and will later be gradually expanded to Miri, Sibu and Bintulu.
“Concurrent with this initiative, the government will construct, upgrade and carry out improvement works for provision of bus shelters or stops and other associated infrastructure and facilities along the bus routes,” he said.
Zone A refers to Kuching City Centre; Zone B Satok; Zone C Matang; Zone D and J Pending-SK Muhibah; Zone E Buntal; Zone F Semariang (Pinggir/Batu); Sungai Midin and Semerah Padi; Zone G and L Jalan Merdeka-Astana; Zone H Gita Laut; Zone I Taman Lee Ling; Zone K Pulau Salak; Pasir Panjang and Pasir Pandak; Zone M Rampangi; Zone N Malihah; Zone O Boyan, Gersik and Sourabaya Ulu; Zone P Desa Wira; Zone Q Tabuan; and Zone R Bako.