Covid-19 preventive measures : Passengers urged to co-operate

By Sarah Hannan

The Road Passenger Transport Authority – Western Province has urged passengers to follow safety precautions when accessing public transport services, be it state or private, and requested them to co-operate with bus operators in preventing the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
Passenger bus service providers, both state and private, are facing practical difficulties, as the country looks into learning to live with Covid-19.
Given that about 20 out of the 500 bus staff underwent PCR testing just as the second wave of Covid-19 made its way, the Road Passenger Transport Authority – Western Province has been pushed to relook into the preventive measures that are in place, to ensure the safety of passengers as well as the staff operating the bus services.
Speaking to The Morning, Road Passenger Transport Authority – Western Province Chairman O.W. Prasanna Sanjeewa stated: “We are conducting sample collections at various bus terminals and the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) is conducting sample collections at various depots across the Western Province. We are aware that there are practical issues that are presented, especially when trying to impose safety measures and health guidelines. Therefore, we have asked our staff to be courteous and respectful towards the passengers who are accessing the bus service.”
Sanjeewa also noted that there are times when the passengers refuse to share their contact details or write them down on the log books provided, protest when their temperature readings are to be taken, and refuse to wash or sanitise the hands.
“We create awareness through media, pamphlets, public announcements; we cannot force people to do things, as it gives rise to disputes between the conductors/drivers and passengers. We have to take into consideration all these things and continue to provide transport services in a humane way. Monitoring the passengers is not an easy task; although we tried to get the Police and the tri-forces involved in the monitoring process, that too failed,” Sanjeewa added.
When asked about what solutions the authority suggests or is looking to implement to reduce the overcrowding in buses during rush hours, Sanjeewa stated that drivers and conductors have been advised to only take passengers according to the number of seats, but that too is impractical when the bus route has very limited busses in operation.
“We are now looking to maintain a bus reserve for the Western Province and when there is a requirement, we could co-ordinate with the SLTB or the National Transport Commission to increase the number of buses that need to operate in a route. This is still under discussion as there is a shortage in drivers and conductors as well, given the travel restriction and the isolation that is in effect,” Sanjeewa elaborated.