Private bus owners demand fare hike: No way says government

By Don Asoka Wijewardena

In the wake of the recent diesel price increase, the Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) is demanding a 15 per cent increase in bus fares.

Gemunu Wijeratne President of the LPBOA told The Island that they would campaign for a fare revision effective July 1.

The LPBOA has given the National Transport Commission time until May 31 to revise the fares. If it failed to do so the LPBOA would take legal action against the NTC, he said. Speaking to the media, at the Narahenpita Women’s Centre on Wednesday (4), Wijeratne said that whenever the LPBOA wanted NTC intervention to resolve a myriad of issues affecting the private bus industry, it would talk but not act. The previous plea of LPBOA to appoint qualified personnel to the NTC and Western Province Road Passenger Transport Authority had also fallen on deaf ears. The LPBOA would be compelled to take the issue to the Supreme Court, he said.

He said the minimum bus fare of Rs. 6 should be increased to Rs. 9. It was a reasonable demand because the price of diesel had gone up suddenly and all bus operators had been affected, he said adding that The LPBOA was trying its best to resolve the issue without causing problems to passengers.

Under the present circumstances it was extremely essential to introduce a 15 per cent fare increase, he said.

Wijeratne charged that the government in 2010 had given Rs. 8.4 billion to the SLTB at Rs. 5,750 per bus per day. It was an injustice meted out to the private bus industry.

Western Province Transport Minister Upali Kodikara said that the LPBOA’s demand to increase bus fares by 15 per cent was unreasonable. LPBOA used to threaten the government with strikes and now it wanted the Supreme Court to resolve its issues. The government would not budge an inch to revise bus fare as people would be affected, he said.

The Minister said that the government would not dance to the tune of LPBOA and it was ready to face any type of situation. Seeking legal redress was quite reasonable, but the unfair demand to increase bus fares was aimed at harassing both the government and the public, he said.

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