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Express coach firm Transtar cuts Singapore-KL fares October 13, 2009

Posted by hafizbam in Bus, Miscellaneous, Transport Events.
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Published in The Straits Times today (Home page 2) is an article by Maria Almenoar featuring coach firm Transtar which is offering new non-stop basic Classic class bus rides between Singapore and Malaysia. Tickets are being offered at a low promotional fare of only S$9 and can be booked at the three-day Travel Malaysia fair to be held over this weekend at the Suntec Convention Centre.

Other firms also seek ways to regain business from budget carriers.

Hit hard by budget carriers flying their route, express coach companies are starting to fight back.

One company, Transtar Travel, is planning a promotion with half-price tickets to Kuala Lumpur. It will offer S$9 one-way tickets to the first 9,900 customers travelling between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur on its new express coach service.

The offer can be booked at the three-day Travel Malaysia fair starting on Friday at Suntec Convention Centre, where seven bus companies will have booths. These promotional seats are normally priced at $17 and offer the usual perks of reclining seats, shared entertainment screens and a food and beverage bar. One-way express bus tickets rang from about $20 to more than $60 depending on how luxurious the coach is.

Transtar executive director Sebastian Yap said business has been down by about 30 per cent since caps were lifted last December on how many flights budget carriers could make on the route.

Every year, more than 1.5 million people hop on express coaches and head for Kuala Lumpur. Since the opening up of skies between Singapore and Malaysia, however, bus companies are reporting a drop of about 30 per cent to 40 per cent.

The Singapore-Kuala Lumpur sector is now served by 11 airlines and is the busiest out of Changi Airport, with 498 flights both ways a week.

Flights take about 45 minutes, but passengers need to check in and make a trip to and from the airport, bringing the total time to five hours, similar to travelling by bus.

“We cannot just sit around and hope that we won’t get hurt… We have to come up with ways to bring people back to the buses,” said Mr Yap, also the chairman of the sub-committee that oversees events promotion and terminal operations at the Express Bus Agencies Association.

The association has 22 members, including big guns such as Five Star Tours, Sri Maju Tours & Travel, and Luxury Tours & Travel, which account for about 60 per cent of the Singapore-Malaysia express bus traffic.

Transtar, with a fleet of 50 coaches running the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur sector 12 times a day, is one of the bigger players in the market, so the likelihood is that other companies will follow suit with lower fares soon, said Mr Yap.

His low-fare deal is a promotional offer for a new class of coach service called Transtar Classic. This line will be scaled down from his high-end coach services, which comes with 18 reclining seats that double as massage chairs, individual entertainment screens and food from Delifrance. Transtar Classic will have 61 seats and run non-stop to Kuala Lumpur three times a day.

Other bus firms are not sure that competing on price alone is the best strategy.

Mr Ismail Abdul Rahman, director of Hasry Singapore, said lower fares would attract more people, but sustainability would be an issue. He is considering raising the level of service and convenience instead, like having Internet connection on the bus.

For construction firm owner Brandon Lim, who takes the bus regularly to Malaysia, the perks mean little. “Planes don’t get me door-to-door, and I have to spend extra time and money on getting to and from the airport. Bus is always better,” he said.

At the end of the day, the customer wins. Lower fares and even more amenities to suit the diverse needs of commuters during their five-hour bus rides will only help make express buses a more worthy choice mode of transport to the Malaysian capital.

The only factor lacking now is a proper intercity bus/coach terminal in Singapore – a facility already commonly found in other countries, and which the Singapore government can certainly provide – to enhance the overall experience for bus commuters even before and after their long journeys.

Click here to visit Transtar Travel’s website.

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