80% public transport under AKD

Unveiling his transport policy, presidential hopeful Anura Kumara Dissanayake said on Friday (18 Oct) that under his presidency, public transit, which currently makes up 52% of the country’s transport sector, will be increased to 80 per cent.

“Developed countries have prioritised public transport. Globally there is a trend towards adopting public transit over private vehicle travel. To minimise traffic, we too will have to think about this approach,” Dissanayake told a gathering of supporters in Kalutara.

The presidential candidate of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led National People’s Power (NPP) said that developing public transport would necessarily contribute towards minimising air pollution, too, as a consequence of reduced vehicular traffic.

Dissanayake’s policy also recommends the use of public transit services such as railways to transport goods and fuel, a throwback to an older practice.

“Fuel used to be transported by train. Now it’s done using privately owned bowsers, which has become a racket run by politicians. It’s the same with transporting other goods,” he said, adding that the practice was a major contributor to congestion in Colombo.

Blaming the increased number of privately owned vehicles in Sri Lanka on what he called the downfall of the public transport sector, Dissanayake said that a majority of consumers have been forced to purchase vehicles due in large part to the sheer inefficiency of public transit, with money they don’t have, often ending up in court over unresolved leases.

Time wasted on the roads owing to traffic congestion has also had a tremendous impact on the country’s economy, he added.

“The public transport crisis begins at the bus halt or railway station itself. The moment a passenger boards a bus or train, their very dignity is under threat. The passenger lacks the agency even to decide where to sit or stand. The fact that 90% of female passengers experience sexual harassment in public transport is something we should all be ashamed of as a country. Then, of course, there are the deaths that occur in transport,” said Dissanayake.

“For the country to see some level of development and for the commuter to travel in dignity, we need to have a special focus on the public transport sector. This is why we formulated this policy over a period of two years with the collective input of a number of experts,” he added.

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