Sri Lanka now has oversupply of buses

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Poor transport management and failure to implement plans have left Sri Lanka with an oversupply of buses whose poor quality of service has prompted commuters to shift to private transport as their incomes rise, officials said.

The operational viability of both the state and private transport services is in doubt today with the oversupply of buses and greater use of private vehicles, said Lalithasiri Gunaruwan, Secretary to the Ministry of Internal Transport.

“The viability of all public transport, including private buses, is in question today,” he declared at a transport forum held by the Organisation of Professional Associations.

“There were more buses than travelers” during the traditional new year celebrations in April, Gunaruwan said.

Don Jayaweera, Chairman of the National Transport Commission, said there were almost 30,000 buses in the country.

”There’s now an oversupply of buses and bus occupancy is down to 65 percent.”

Amal Kumarage, Senior Professor of  the Department of Transport & Logistics Management in the University of Moratuwa, said the neglect of the transport sector had led to a poor quality of service in public transport services.

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“In public transport, the speed is half that of private transport, so people move to private transport.”

With per capita incomes rising in the country, private vehicle ownership is becoming more affordable, Kumarage told the forum.

“In the next 20 years bus transport will actually decrease. It was already evident during the new year period. Buses were idling without passengers and private vehicles jamming the streets.”

In the Western Province, which generates half the country gross domestic product, there were 8,000 buses operational now.

“But we need only 4,500 buses if we have good time tables,” Kumarage said. “We may have to compensate those who move out. New routes will have to be planned and schedules redone.”