Sri Lanka’s transport regulator to expand into restaurants

The National Transport Commission which regulates Sri Lankan buses will build and regulate restaurants after long-haul bus passengers complained of price gouging at restaurants. AFP Photo.

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s National Transport Commission, which issues route licenses to buses, will set up and regulate network of roadside restaurants, after an elderly lady passenger was overcharged for hoppers.

Minister of Transport Mahinda Amaraweera had received complaints that buses stopping at a wayside restaurant had forced passengers to eat at a buffet, though many wanted only small items of food, a statement said.

“Recently, a group of travellers had consumed food at a restaurant in Ambepussa,” Minister Amaraweera was quoted as saying.

“An 85-year old lady who had a hopper with lunu miris was charged 700 rupees. Another traveller in the same group was charged 700 rupees for two pieces of milk rice and a piece of fish.”

“Travellers have brought to notice that the government must act to ensure that buffets are charged at reasonable rates depending on what each person has consumed, because not everyone can eat everything presented at a buffet.”

Usually the bus driver and conductor is rewarded with free food and cigarettes at small restaurants. The high priced restaurants are also suspected to be offering commissions, the report said.

It was not clear whether the restaurant in question only had a buffet and there was no option by single items such as short eats though deliberate strategy, or if the travellers mistakenly went to the buffet through ignorance.

The ministry has requested the Consumer Affairs Authority to take action against restaurants victimizing travellers.

Not stopping at that, the ministry now wants to set up a chain of restaurants which will give food at ‘reasonable’ prices.

“It has been decided to set up a chain of restaurants around the country at suitable places by the National Transport Commission under its regulation,” the ministry said.

“The proposed restaurant chain to be built will also have suitable toilets as well as clean food at reasonable prices.”

It is not clear whether the transport regulator is empowered to build and operate or regulate restaurants at the moment or whether it is a case of mission creep.

Regulators are also expected to be independent and are not to own or operate businesses that they are supposed to regulate.

In the past some of the worst toilet facilities were found at central bus stands owned by the Sri Lanka Transport Board. (Colombo/Jan06/2020)

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