Government tasks fisheries company with providing public transport in Addu City

The government has terminated an agreement with MVK Maldives Pvt Ltd to provide bus and ferry services in Addu City, and tasked the state-owned Maldives Industrial Fishing Corporation (MIFCO) with providing the public transport services.

The contract with MVK was signed by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government in 2009 under its Public-Private Partnership policy.

Minister of economic development Mohamed Saeed told the press today that the government has been “receiving numerous complaints regarding the ferry services” in the southernmost atolls.

“The ferry, which was supposed to be running between Addu City and Fuvahmulah has been stopped for almost a year, while the bus services within Addu City have suffered interruptions,” he said.

“That is why we decided to annul the agreement with MVK and hand over the agreement to MIFCO.”

Saeed said that the MDP government’s transport system was built “very irresponsibly” on a loose foundation, alleging that it was intended to provide unlawful gains to certain parties.

A nationwide transport network was one of five main pledges of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

MIFCO is also providing ferry services in the Gaaf Dhaal and Gaaf Alif atolls in the south after former President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration terminated an agreement with Trinus-CAE Holdings Pvt Ltd.

MIFCO’s CEO Adlee Ismail said the company’s immediate focus would be to start providing services to the current standard.

“We have to bring buses and other vehicles from abroad. Our aim to bring air-conditioned and modern vehicles,” said Adlee.

Adlee said 30 percent of the company’s fish stocks are from Addu City, and that the company is planning to open a fish processing plant in the Hulhumeedhoo ward early next year.

Turbulent history

MVK was leased a guesthouse in Gan for 50 years in exchange for providing the ferry services.

However, Addu City Mayor Abdulla ‘Soabe’ Sodiq previously told Minivan News that the guest house “which was functioning well when handed over,” is now mostly vacant and neglected.

The guesthouse transaction was later investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission in 2010, which found that it was awarded illegally.

MVK was also questioned by the parliament’s government oversight committee in September 2014 regarding its failure to provide the transportation services.

At the time, company officials told the committee that plots of land awarded under the initial agreement had not been handed over.

However, the company agreed to resume transportation services, requesting until December 2014 to start the inter-atoll ferry to Fuvahmulah.

Saeed said today that the government has shown a “good example” by cancelling the contract, declaring that it will not hesitate in terminating agreement if there are shortcomings in providing services to the public.

The current administration has already terminated several of the MDP government’s projects, such as the Tatva waste management agreement.

Former president Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan in 2012 terminated an airport development agreement with Indian infrastructure GMR.


Malé City to improve bus service based on new survey

Malé City Council has conducted a bus service survey to identify potential improvements to the capital’s public transport.

“From this survey, we found that many people are using the bus service, and many want to improve the service. Necessary improvements must be brought about as a top priority,” said Male’ Mayor Mohamed Shihab.

The survey was conducted after the council received a number of complaints regarding buses. It consisted of thirty questions posed to a randomly selected sample of 180 people.

The results showed that women make up the majority of passengers (52 percent) using the service which was introduced in 2011.

The percentage of people travelling by bus is low during weekends, particularly on Fridays, the survey revealed. It also indicated that most people (40 percent) use the bus in the morning compared to the afternoons (20 percent) and evenings (16 percent).

While only 31 percent reported being unhappy with the overall bus service in Malé, respondents reported several concerns.

Approximately half of respondents said they were unhappy with the bus fare – currently MVR5 per journey, while 58 percent said were unhappy with the hours of service. The bus currently runs from 6am until 1am.

Over a third of respondents did not approve of the current seating arrangements on the bus while another 32 percent complained about the condition of the vehicles. Twenty one percent said they were unhappy with behavior of bus conductors, while a similar number of people said they were bothered by the behavior of other passengers.

Respondents complained over punctuality of buses, with only 24 percent stating that buses arrived on time.

Even though buses are supposed to arrive at each stop every 15 minutes, 30 percent of respondents said they had to wait for over 20 minutes. Those who expressed discontentment with the bus stops (35 percent) said their main concerns was the lack of a shelter or a place to sit down.

A majority of respondents (61 percent) wanted more bus routes to be introduced.

Shihab said that, while the results of the survey indicated the sentiments of those who utilise the service, there would be many who were not taking the bus due to certain other issues.

He said that providing a bus service in Malé is very challenging due to the conditions of the city, including heavy traffic and construction work, but also due to failures of the service provider.

The service is provided by MVK Maldives Pvt Ltd, who are also facing criticism over failures in providing public ferry services.

The mayor noted that any reforms would be made in accordance with the agreement between MVK and the council.


Police arrest five people during protest over 75 laari increase in Hulhumale’ bus fares

Police have confirmed that a total of five people were arrested during a protest on Hulhumale’ yesterday (June 14), held to raise concerns over an increase in the price of bus fares on the island.

Three males, one female and a minor remain in custody today after they were charged with offences including failing to obey instructions and breaking past police lines during the demonstration. Demonstrators reportedly highlighted a number of concerns, including a decision to raise the cost of tickets on the Hulhumale’ bus service from MVR 2.25 (US$0.15) to MVR 3 (US$0.19).

The protest, which began at 3:00pm yesterday afternoon and ended roughly three hours later, coincided with efforts by the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) to introduce new larger buses on the island, Sun Online reported.

Ismail Fariq, an executive for MTCC’s Transport Department said today that the new buses represented an MVR 8.6 million (US$558,000) investment by the company in an effort to provide a “total improvement” in service for passengers by offering air conditioning and more seating.

“The existing buses that we have been using are almost broken down, but these new buses we hope will offer a new benchmark in public transportation services,” he said.

With the new buses coming into service yesterday, Fariq said that passengers would be able to use the buses for free until tomorrow, when the new MVR 3 fare would be implemented.

He said the increased fare was essential to cover the company’s investment in the new vehicles.

“This increase in quality comes with the change in price,” Fariq argued. “As a business we need a reasonable return on investment and I do not believe that 75 laari is a big change for these improvements.

Demonstrators opposed to the increase nonetheless yesterday gathered in the area of Hulhumale’ where the new bus service was scheduled to be introduced to voice their concerns. They also demanded improvements to the ferry boat service presently operating between Hulhumale’ and the capital, according to local media.

Improvements to the ferry service were a much more pressing consumer issue than the provision of air conditioned buses in Hulhumale’, the protesters said according to Sun Online.  The criticisms were first made after the state-owned MTCC purchased four new vehicles last month.

The company was quoted in local media at the time as claiming the news vehicles would allow it to increase the capacity of daily bus passengers on Hulhumale’ from 8,000 to 10,000 people, as well as expanding the number of services it offered on the island.

In January this year the MTCC announced it would begin charging a six percent Goods and Services Tax (GST) on all ferry and bus services that it operates as required by the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA).

The cost of a ticket for a single journey on the Hulhumale’ bus was as a result increased to MVR 2.12 at the time.


MTCC ferry and bus services to charge GST

Ferry and bus services operated by Maldives Transport and Construction Company (MTCC) will now charge GST in addition to the ticket price, local media has reported.

MTCC Transport Executive Ismail Fariq told Sun Online that the company is now required to collect GST as it is a registered company at Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA).

Under the new requirements, tickets to Hulhumale’ cost MVR 5.30 and a ticket to Vilimale’ is charged at MVR 3.18. Inter-atoll island-to-island ferry services charge MVR 21 and MVR 53 for a trip to Male’
. Hulhumale’ bus fees have also increased to MVR 2.12, according to local media.

“It is not that we have increased the prices of our services. We have just added the GST 6 percent to our services,” Fariq told local media. “As such, GST will be collected from ferries from Hulhumale’, Vilingili, Gulhee Falhu, Thilafushi and province ferries as well as Hulhumale’ bus services.”


Bus service won’t affect taxis, says Mayor

Male City Mayor Adam Manik has reassured taxi drivers that they need not be concerned about trials of a bus service, reports Haveeru.

“Everyone’s not a millionaire. An affordable mode of transport should be available for the some 150,000 people living in Male’,” Haveeru reported Manik as saying.

“On the other hand, people who use cars are those who want to go directly to their homes. So taxi drivers shouldn’t be worried about that,” he said.

Manik said environmentally friendly buses would be introduced pending a six month trial of a bus service in the capital.

“In our efforts to become carbon neutral we need to reduce the number of fuel-powered vehicles,” Manik said.


Transport Ministry rules out Male’ bus service

The Transport Ministry has backed down from a plan to introduce a bus service in Male’ because of the condition of the roads and lack of alternate routes for large vehicles in the city’s narrow streets.

Adil Saleem has ruled out the possibilities of beginning bus transport service in Male because of the current condition of the roads.

“What would happen now is, if the bus were to travel from Hulhumale ferry terminal with a busload of people to Vilingili ferry terminal and if for some reason a road happens to be closed and there is no other route the bus could take, [the system] would be brought to a standstill,” said Transport Minister Adil Saleem, according to Haveeru.

“There are many things to do before we can begin the bus service. Space needs to be created on the roads of Male so that buses can be accommodated.”