By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): Sri Lanka’s public transport system is to be developed to cater to the growing demand by changing the railway and bus regulatory model, to bring in private investment so that the infrastructure can be modernized and deliver higher service quality, transport ministry sources said.
The government is exploring the option of re-negotiating with Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to divert financing for a light rail transit (LRT) that may again come Sri Lanka’s way towards bus infrastructure development, and railway electrification and modernization.
This proposal aimed at restoring Sri Lanka’s credibility within the international community was approved by the cabinet of ministers recently to resume the Colombo LRT project, which was abandoned during the tenure of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Sri Lanka’s bus transportation system has been plagued by many issues including overcrowding, inadequate fleet and maintenance, poor service frequency and reliability, limited coverage, inefficient route planning, lack of accessibility, poor enforcement of safety measures, and lack of standardized ticketing system and fare collection practices over the years.
The transport ministry is looking at these issues and devise innovative strategies to tackle it one one by within a couple of years, Minister Bandula Gunawardene disclosed.
Government spent Rs. 13.5 billion for this sector in 2022, of which Rs. 11.3 billion was spent as recurrent expenditure. Meanwhile, Rs. 6.4 billion was spent by the government as recurrent expenditure in order to provide season tickets to school and higher education student.
Rs. 3.3 billion was spent on other relief services such as an operating of Sri Lanka Transport Board(SLTB) buses on unremunerated routes in rural areas, contribution to maintaining a socially obligatory bus service and providing armed forces bus passes.
The recurrent expenditure in 2022 declined by 10 percent to Rs. 11.3 billion in 2022 compared to Rs. 12.5 billion in 2021, finance ministry report revealed.
A sum of Rs. 2,224 million was spent as capital expenditure including the purchase of 500new buses for the Sri Lanka Transport Board, improvement of the bus fleet and printing of driving licenses.it added.
In light of the limited operations of private bus services owing to the economic crisis and subsequent rise in fuel prices, there was a surge in demand for railway transportation in 2022, finance ministry observed.
A sum of Rs. 23.5 billion was incurred as recurrent expenditure on the railway sector in 2022 whereas Rs. 21.6 billion was spent as capital expenditure including the expenditure on Colombo Suburban Railway Efficiency Improvement Project implemented with the aim of providing comfortable and uninterrupted railway services to the public.
In this context, the railway administrative and operational costs increased by 61 percent in 2022 compared to the year 2021.
Despite the increase in recurrent expenditure, due to the slowdown in construction activities, the total expenditure on the railway transport sector in 2022 was Rs. 45.2 billion, a 7 percent decline compared to the total expenditure of Rs. 48.7 billion in 2021.