Focus/Spotlight

Public transport takes a hit

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The Easter Sunday attacks have severely affected public transport with very few people willing to use buses or trains fearing attacks.

Deputy Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Ashok Abeysinghe told The Sunday Morning that the Government had already taken measures to ensure the safety of the passengers at all main train stations, bus stops, as well as the airport.

“As soon as the incident happened, we instructed buses and trains not to transport parcels. If they do, we have instructed passengers to keep the parcel with them and we only allow parcels on board after inspection,” he said.

“We have set up checkpoints in all main train stations and provided adequate security to the airport. The Sri Lanka Air Force is conducting security checks outside of the airport while the airport security conducts security checks inside,” the Deputy Minister noted.

As of Friday (26), a total of 12,870 vehicles had entered the airport premises, Abeysinghe noted.

“There has been a significant decrease in passengers, and the revenue of the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) has decreased by 50%,” he said, adding: “At present, our main concern is to decrease the number of passengers due to the situation.”

Meanwhile, Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) Chairman Gemunu Wijeratne said the revenue decreased by around 25% during the last week as a result of the terrorist attack on Easter Sunday.

“I have requested Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera to provide relief for the private bus drivers and conductors. The reduction of the numbers of passengers had severely affected the industry,” he said.
Commenting on the measures taken to ensure the security of the passengers, Wijeratne said that they had instructed the passengers to look out for any suspicious persons in the buses and if they feel any threat to immediately inform the bus conductor.

“We have temporarily stopped transporting parcels in buses,” he added.

Locomotive Engine Operators’ Union (LEOU) Co-convener Indika Dodangoda said: “We haven’t started to run night trains yet since the incident happened. If schools start next Monday and everything returns to normal, we will resume night mail.”

“During curfew hours, we cannot send night mail and there are no passengers during the day time as we usually experience,” he added.