The public bus service run by City Hall has been hemorrhaging about $100,000 a month, according to the local authorities.
Long Dimanche, spokesman for the Phnom Penh municipality, confirmed the figure yesterday, after it was first revealed by local media following a meeting last week between the Phnom Penh governor and private transport companies.
The spokesman chalked up the losses to the low-cost of bus tickets, currently 1,500 riel [or $0.37], as well as a free pass given to students, disabled travellers, the elderly and monks.
Nevertheless, despite the significant loss in revenue, the government won’t stop operations, but will instead improve the service, Dimanche added.
“We won’t think about losing or making a profit, but this is to provide public transport service to the citizens,” Dimanche said.
“We will try to improve the service, by making it better than it is now,” he said, adding that City Hall was looking to acquire more buses in the near future.
Currently, between 6,000 to 7,000 passengers take public transportation everyday, which includes 50 busses that run on three bus lines, according to Dimanche.
He said that China and Japan have pledged to provide assistance to improve the public bus service, though he did not reveal any details as to how or when this would happen.
City Hall first trialled the public bus in 2001, but a lack of funding saw the service halted after just a month.
City Hall, with support from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), reactivated the public bus at the start of 2014.
The authorities handed over operations of the service to Chinese-run Global (Cambodia) Trade Development soon after.
This, however, was also short-lived, after City Hall took back the reins from Global (Cambodia) Trade Development after just a few months.
Lim Andre, CEO of Global (Cambodia) Trade Development, said yesterday that the monthly losses were most likely due to locals being discouraged from taking the bus because of limited bus lines and long waiting periods at bus stations.
“If I were the one to run it, I wouldn’t have lost so much money.
I would have tried to create more lines and reduce the waiting time,” Lim said.
Andre said it was difficult to determine how much of the losses could be attributed to free rides given to select travellers, but said in other countries they offer discounts to certain demographics.
Ear Chariya, independent road safety specialist, agreed that the lack of accessibility and limited bus lines are issues that the government needs to improve, specifically along the sidewalks that people use to walk to bus stations.
“People find it difficult to walk to the station because we are lacking roadsides,” he said.
“I think [the public bus] is the only solution for helping to relieve the traffic congestion in Phnom Penh.”
Additional reporting by Xueying Chen