Only 25% private buses are running
a year ago
By Buddhika Samaraweera Only about 25% of private buses are currently operating, despite reopening the country, the Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) President Gemunu Wijeratne has claimed, and called for a formal programme to ensure the continued operation of public transport, even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Although the country was reopened, only about 25% of private buses are operating at present and it has caused many hardships for the passengers. The Government should intervene immediately and formulate a programme to ensure that public transport services are maintained even in the prevailing Covid-19 situation,” he added. Speaking to The Morning, he said that with the suspension of public transport services from time to time due to closure of the country, the shifting of private bus sector employees to other jobs has been the main reason for the decrease in the number of buses operating at present. Further claiming that there were about 50,000 private bus employees, including drivers and conductors across the country, Wijeratne said that due to the closure of the country over the past, nearly 30,000 of them have now moved on to various other jobs. As a result, the bus owners have to run the buses now, he said. He further went on to say: “When the number of buses in operation decreases, there is a congestion in the running buses. Through it, Covid-19 can be easily spread. So what needs to be done is to increase the number of buses running, not to reduce them. Although we have given the Transport Ministry a number of proposals in this regard since the first wave of Covid-19 spread, they have so far failed to formulate a proper programme.” Attempts to contact Transport Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Transport Ministry Secretary Monti Ranatunga were not successful. Meanwhile, the Vehicle Regulation, Bus Transport Services and Train Compartments, and Motor Car Industry State Minister and Community Police Services State Minister Dilum Amunugama yesterday (3) told the media that from today (4), steps would be taken to seize buses that transport passengers in excess of the seating capacity and revoke their licences. He said that such buses would be detained until further notice and that instructions have already been given to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne in this regard. On 29 September, National Operations Centre for the Prevention of the Covid-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Head and Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva announced that President Rajapaksa had given instructions to lift the islandwide lockdown status, which had been in place for six weeks, at 4 a.m. on 1 October.