Dissatisfied commuters of private bus service on the up

  • NTC launches pilot project of installing GPS to monitor errant drivers
By Damith Wickremasekra

Complaints by private bus commuters to the National Transport Commission (NTC) doubled last year, compared with the previous year, the Commission revealed this week. NTC Chairman Roshan Gunawardena told the Sunday Times that it received more than 40 complaints a day and that most of the complaints were for overcharging, failure to return the balance of the money tendered and being discourteous to commuters.

He said among other complaints were cases of failure to follow a time table, overloading, operating un-roadworthy buses and failure to adhere to traffic rules. “The increase in complaints has prompted us to launch a system to monitor private bus operations, as we believe that the complaint system alone is not helpful to improve the quality of service,” Mr. Gunawardena said.

He said that the NTC had already launched a pilot project to monitor the bus services . “We can monitor the bus if it exceeds speed limits and also entertain complaints while the bus is plying and try to resolve some of the issues.”

The NTC has fixed GPS (Global Positioning Systems) – a satellite navigation system that provides information on the location. The facility has been provided to about 200 private buses that are being monitored at the NTC head office in Narahenpita.

“We can monitor the time the bus departs as well as if the bus detours,” he said. The Sunday Times saw first hand the monitoring system in operation on Thursday. One of the buses travelling between Aluthgama and Galle, was caught speeding beyond 100 kmph.

This is the way to track buses on the move: NTC Chairman Roshan Gunawardena showing how the GPS system works. Pix by Susantha Liyanawatte

The NTC has the option of warning the driver by contacting him on the transmission equipment.
Mr. Gunawardena added that passengers travelling in buses where the equipment has been fitted, could call NTC on the hotline 1955 and make a complaint. He said this would help resolve issues faster. The usual investigation procedure will follow if they don’t have the GPS facility.

“Our target is for all private buses to have the GPS facility by the year end. The owner has to pay only Rs 10,000 while the balance Rs. 25,000 will be met by the NTC,” he added. Mr. Gunawardena said of the complaints received last year, the NTC resolved a majority of them. More than 40% were settled with a warning or a fine, but a similar number were inconclusive due to lack of sufficient data.

This year, the NTC has received 1,726 complaints to date, of which, inquiries into 890 of them have been concluded. He also said that the number of NTC inspectors deployed on the roads will be increased shortly.

Bus crew warned, fined for incomplete journey

The driver and conductor of a private bus operating between Colombo and Middeniya, which failed to continue its journey to its final destination, were severely warned and ordered to pay the administrative cost of the NTC to inquire into the matter.

He said that the driver and conductor have also been ordered to undergo training to improve the quality of their service.

The bus is also to be fitted with a GPS facility to enable the NTC to monitor the bus.

11-year-old walks 17 km for want of bus fare

Conductor offloads boy, ignoring his pleas to pay fare on reaching his destination

By L.B. Senaratne

A 11-year-old boy walked more than 16 km, after the conductor, who also was the owner of the bus, offloaded him, as he did not have the required fare to go home in Ganetenne, Mawanella.

As usual, after school, Madushanka Wijekoon, a student of Waripola Sri Sumangala College, Kandy, came to the bus terminus near the railway goodshed and boarded a Kandy-Kegalle bus. The bus commenced its journey, and near the Kandy Hospital bus halt, the conductor-cum owner of the bus started collecting the fares.

Madushanka Wijekoon Madushanka’s mother Kumari

Madushanka, on trying to get the fare from his bag, realized that his money was missing. When the conductor approached him for the fare, Madushanka told the conductor that his money was missing and that he would pay the Rs. 17 fare when he reached Ganetenna, as he was known there as the son of an Army personnel.

“I promised to give him the money when I got off, as I could have asked somebody known in my village for the money, but the conductor did not agree to that,” he said.

Madushanka recalls how he was bodily pulled out from the bus and dumped on the road, and with none of the passengers offering any assistance, he had no alternative but to walk from the Kandy hospital bus stand to Ganetenna, a distance of nearly 17 km.

“On reaching Polgahamulla, after passing Peradeniya Junction, I drank a glass of water from a wayside boutique as I was tired, and then continued with my journey,” Madushanka said.

As Madushanka was trudging home, his mother Kumari became very worried, as her son was long overdue, normally coming home at the usual time of 4.30 p.m.On making inquiries, a student close to their home had told Kumari that he saw someone like Madushanka coming down Pahale Kadugannawa, where the wayside fruit stalls are located.

Kumari immediately told her elder son Roshan to go by bus and see whether it was Madushanka. When the bus taking Roshan was climbing the steep incline, he saw Madushanka walking down the incline. He stopped the bus, alighted and when he accosted Madushanka, he started to cry.

Kumari said that Madushanka is not in the habit of asking for money even at home, which would have prevented him from asking for money from any stranger. The father, Ratna Wijekoon, attached to the Army Camp at Pallekelle, said that, such was the discipline he had instilled in his children that, perhaps Madushanka decided to walk, rather than ask for money, even for his bus fare.

The National Transport Commission (NTC), which inquired into the incident, found that the bus owner had illegally sold his route permit for Rs 3.8 million and was illicitly operating this bus. NTC Chairman Roshan Gunawardena told the Sunday Times that the owner of the bus had his route permit cancelled, to serve as a deterrent to other bus crews who ill-treat passengers.

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