Private bus owners file petition: ‘Decommission semi-luxury bus service’

By Sarah Hannan

The Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA) has filed a fundamental rights (FR) petition requesting the decommission of semi-luxury bus services, The Morning learnt.

The petition has been filed considering the present situation, where all buses are accommodating passengers according to seat availability, with the bus association viewing this as a FR violation committed by the semi-luxury bus owners against the passengers. In addition, the act is seen as an injustice towards buses that are considered normal service buses, which are now transporting passengers in a similar fashion as per health regulations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“With all buses required to accommodate passengers according to seat availability, we do not see the purpose of having the semi-luxury category of buses.

While the normal bus service too transports passengers in a similar fashion, we informed the Ministry of Passenger Transport Management that the semi-luxury category of buses should be discontinued. We filed a FR petition with the Human Rights Commission last week, indicating that the passengers are now being overcharged by the semi-luxury category of buses and that it is unjust to have different charging mechanisms for the same service due to a categorisation difference,” LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne noted.

Minister of Passenger Transport Management Mahinda Amaraweera, in a statement issued in early February, brought to light a similar complaint that was raised by the general public to the National Transport Commission (NTC), indicating that the semi-luxury buses lacked regular maintenance and were not in good enough shape to transport passengers, although they charged a higher ticket price.

According to NTC statistics, about 437 buses are in operation under the category of semi-luxury service buses, and during a discussion that took place between the NTC officials and the bus owners, they have come to an agreement that 25 of the semi-luxury buses were to be fitted with air conditioning (A/C) and are to be categorised as A/C luxury buses, while seven buses were to be categorised as normal service buses.

Moreover, should semi-luxury buses operate, the Ministry and the NTC had agreed that they would allow the buses to operate between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. the following day, and not during day time. However, special consideration is to be given if the buses are to commute over 200 km for each commute.

The NTC was to draft a cabinet paper and present it to the Cabinet of Ministers through Minister Amaraweera.

All attempts to contact Minister Amaraweera and the NTC proved futile.