Hundred and twenty two (122) buses out of the 2,000 new buses ordered by Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) officials from India have arrived in the country, Transport Minister Kumara Welgama said.
He said these new buses will be distributed among the island wide main and sub depots, including depots in Badulla and Moneragala. The Minister said the Government decided to buy 2,000 buses from Lanka Ashok Leyland PLC, a joint venture between Ashok Leyland of India and the Sri Lankan government, on supplier’s credit basis.
The Treasury allocated Rs.1 billion to the SLTB this year in support of its capital investments to buy these Ashok Leyland buses, he added.
The estimated cost for one doubled door bus is around Rs.4.8 million. “These buses will provide a safe service to commuters while easing the morning and afternoon traffic,” he said. The main objective of importing these buses is to enhance the public transport service in Sri Lanka by reducing travel time, uplift the productivity of the public transport and providing a quality service to the commuters. SLTB is the main passenger transport service on less profitable roads as well as in less profitable hours in busy roads in the country, he said.
According to the Minister, out of the 7,662 SLTB buses, 2,916 are not roadworthy. The majority of the buses are over 15 years and used to the maximum with the SLTB spending Rs.510 million each month on all its operations.
“The SLTB fleet has only 2,500 buses that are seven years old. All the others have been in operation for the past 15, 20 or 30 years,” he said. “Therefore, with the arrival of new buses, 1,000 old buses would be removed from the service as it would be very costly to repair them. We are trying to increase the revenue of the SLTB by providing new buses to island wide depots.
Though most of depot mangers discharge a commendable service, the management of certain depots is very weak.
Though some opposition members say that the SLTB cannot be saved and revived, public bus service could be updated and converted into profitable venture if all workers get their act together to strengthen it,” Welgama said.
“Eighty six out of 106 depots function smoothly at present and salaries of workers have been paid duly. It is the duty of the management that the rest of depots to make the situation better,” he added.