A fleet of luxury and semi luxury buses from Colombo to the suburbs with facilities for differently-abled people to embark and disembark without a hassle will be operated by the SLTB and a purchase order has been placed with an Indian company, Transport Minister Kumara Welgama said.
The luxury buses will reach Colombo from Moratuwa, Kesbewa, Homagama, Maharagama, Malabe, Kaduwela, Kelaniya, Ja-Ela and Kiribathgoda with fares slightly higher than on normal buses.
“I firmly believe that all loss-making depots can be turned around by efficient management and has resulted in 80 out of 106 depots now running at break-even level sans employee disputes because the employees are paid full monthly salary on time,” he said.
The minister said only 26 depots were struggling to meet their monthly budget as they do not earn enough revenue to run the depot.
“The SLTB subsidises the salary of all 35,000 employees with Rs.12,800 while the balance salaries must be paid by individual depots from the revenue collected from operating the buses. However, it is incomprehensible as to why certain depots fail to raise enough revenue for their basic needs when the SLTB provides tyres, batteries, and spare parts. The depots are left with only expenses for maintenance, salaries and fuel,” the minister said.
He said with the arrival of 2,200 new buses from Leyland, the buses in operation for 10 to 15 years would be auctioned.
“The new fleet will comprise small, medium and big buses. Small buses will be deployed in rural areas having narrow roads while the big buses will be deployed for long distance running. The SLTB fleet increase to 6,000 with the new arrivals,” the minister said.
All depots and sub depots will be given a minimum of five new buses with the cost to be paid back in five years from the revenue.
Meanwhile, Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) vehemently protested the import of 2,200 new buses for the SLTB and added that it would expedite the collapse of the private bus service.
LPBOA President Gemunu Wijeratne said SLTB drivers do not operate on a time table and terminate their services when the collection was low.
He appealed to the minister to provide the facilities and financial assistance to the private bus service as well because private bus owners operate their buses at a loss.