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President orders park & ride, prepaid cards for public transport; expressways may allow non-luxury buses

ECONOMYNEXT –  A park & ride system, prepaid cards and combined timetables are among measures to be taken by Sri Lanka’s Transport Ministry on the orders of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to make public transport more efficient.

As a first step, President Rajapkasa has ordered Transport Ministry officials to clean up the seating facilities in public transport, a statement from the president’s office said. Rajapaksa has also directed officials to examine the possibility of allowing ordinary (non-luxury) buses in good condition to operate on the expressways to make travel on those roads more affordable.

“A small step will lead to a big change. Start cleaning buses and provide seating facilities to passengers from tomorrow itself,” the statement quoted Rajapaksa as telling Transport Ministry officials in a discussion held yesterday (18).

Pointing to an earlier directive of his to ban posters in the city, the president said that development in any sector can begin with a small initiative.

The proposed park & ride system is expected to reduce traffic congestion in the city, similar to systems used in some developed countries, the statement said, allowing commuters to leave their vehicles in a parking lot and transfer to connected public transport facilities. Sri Lanka had previously proposed to implement two park-and-ride systems for Gampaha and Colombo Districts in 2012.

“Although the Transport Board provides bus transportation as a service, it should be transformed into an entity that doesn’t make losses,” said Rajapaksa. Both public and private transport sectors must pay closer attention to the bus service in rural areas, he added.

The president has also ordered combined transport timetables. “Start implementing combined transport timetables for trains and buses without delay. It is important to identify areas that need swift solutions to develop the transport sector. Long and short-term plans should be formulated for the next five years to develop the sector,” the statement quoted Rajapaksa  as saying.

“Reviewing of targets that have been achieved is imperative,” he added.

The discussion was attended by officials of the Ministry of Transport and the State Ministry of Vehicle Regulation, Bus Transport Services and Carriages and Automotive Industries.

Railway carriages will be repaired while Colombo Fort and four other railway stations are to be modernised as a pilot project, according to Minister of Transport Gamini Lokuge.

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The minister added that by increasing the number of trains, more people will be able to travel by the Kelani Valley Railway Line.

A prepaid card system will be introduced soon for both public and private sectors for an efficient passenger transport service. (Colombo/Aug19/2020)

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