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DateLine Sunday, 13 January 2008

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Strict rules to regulate private buses

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has introduced strict rules to regulate private buses. Transport Minister Dullas Alahapperuma said that new regulations will be enforced from next month for inter-provincial long distance buses that are regulated by the NTC.


The new regulations for private buses will be enforced from next month for inter-provincial long distance buses that are regulated by the National Transport Commission.

Accordingly bus owners will have to maintain their buses in keeping with the new standards introduced, follow the amended regulations and new regulations to renew their route permits, the Minister said.

Under the new regulations, all buses should have fire extinguishers for safety and a clock in the bus to ensure the on time departure and reach the destination within the given time. The departure and arrival times should also be displayed inside the bus. All buses should display the route plates issued by the NTC on the front and rear of the bus to ensure that the buses are running on the given route.

All buses should hold a fitness certificate issued by the NTC approved garage to ensure that seats and other technical features are in keeping with the new standards. Buses will not be allowed to cover the glass with dark or tinted stickers and the objective is to enable passengers to see the vacant seats in the bus before they embark, ensure that there is no overloading or carrying standees in luxury buses.

All additional lights that are not recommended by the NTC such as beacon lights have to be removed. The front and rear of the bus should be painted in the same colour and any stickers, words or drawings should not be displayed. Buses can have only a radio and cassette players and CD players should be removed. The volume of the music should be less than 85 decibels.

Under the new regulations private buses can have only one conductor and after the journey begins one door has to be kept closed. Standees can be carried only in the space between two seat rows and the number of passengers should not exceed the maximum number of passengers that can be carried in the bus.

Buses should have sufficient fuel to complete the journey. The objective is to avoid the risk faced by passengers in filling stations and avoiding delays.

Initially these regulations apply to 3,300 long distance buses, but over 16,000 private buses governed by the provincial transport authorities are not subjected to these regulations.

Though the NTC and transport authorities introduced this type of regulations from time to time bus operators follow them only for a few weeks. Minister Alahapperuma said that these issues in the private bus sector have now become sub culture and difficult to change. However, NTC officials will strictly enforce them this time, he said.

The Minister also said that the NTC will introduce a rotation timetable for private buses soon and ensure that all bus operators get the peak hours turn.

Today only a few bus owners enjoy the peak hours slot that have a higher income. As a result some bus owners earn a lower income.

The NTC attempted to introduce this rotation timetable for many years but political influence thwarted it, the minister said. The Minister said that a national transport policy is being drafted and a crucial meeting in this connection will be held on January 18. The draft of the national policy will be published to seek commuters' views.

The objective of the national transport policy is to uplift the public transport services to attract commuters and make the roads congestion free.

Today, around 830,000 people travel daily to the Colombo city and of them 10% travel by train and 56% by buses. Only 11% of people travel by cars but they occupy 65% of the road capacity. To reduce congestion and city traffic we have to attract these car users to the common transport service by improving its quality, the Minister said.

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