Transport Services Management and Power and Energy Minister Mahinda Amaraweera had said last week that loud songs and improper video clips would be banned from being played on radios and TVs in private buses from January 1 (Tomorrow). Citing that the songs played at high volume irk the commuters, he had stated that classical songs with proper videos would be distributed among the bus crews.
Nobody would forget the Minister’s promise on the issue as there is only one day is left for it to be kept.
However, while commending the minister’s intention and praying for the success of his plan, we warn him that the private bus services in this country has been successful in scuttling anything that is against their culture for the past thirty-five years.
Regulations have been promulgated by the transport Ministries – Central as well as provincial – and even by the Supreme Court to transform the private bus service into a decent mode of public transport since the 1980s, but the bus operators and their crew members would not touch them even with a bargepole.
While there are so many burning issues in the transport sector to be resolved, one might wonder as to what prompted the Minister to prioritize the songs and videos played in buses, despite them being an important issue.
For instance, the life-threatening race among the buses at times and frustrating slow pace of them which sometimes bring the whole city of Colombo to a standstill at another are issues that have to be resolved immediately.
Even if the songs played in buses are the most important issue to be handled there is no mechanism at hand to resolve it. The Minister might distribute CDs or DVDs among bus crews but without a mechanism to ensure that they are played instead of those played normally in the buses.
Who is going to monitor as to what songs are played and how loudly they are played? Earlier, twice in this year -in February and in June -the Chairman of the National Transport Commission Janaka Mallimarachchi, also said that he would regularise the songs played in buses and their volume, but nothing happened.
During the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, even the Supreme Court intervened to streamline the private bus service. Accordingly, the uniform for the drivers and the conductors and the ticket machines were made compulsory, but those orders are being violated in broad daylight even in Colombo.
Streamlining the private bus service is very important as it has a huge impact on the day-to-day life of the ordinary people as well as the economy of the country. It is a well-known fact that one major reason for the congestion is the absence of a proper, decent public transport service in the country. The poor condition of buses and the indecent behaviour of the bus crews have compelled hundreds of thousands of commuters to find alternative means of transportation, increasing the number of vehicles on the roads every day. On the other hand, the private bus drivers’ habit of stopping their buses at every bus halt for a long time further disrupts the smooth flow of traffic.
Ultimately, the average speed of vehicles in the cities in Sri Lanka had dropped to 12 km per hour, by 2014 and the authorities stated in 2017 that traffic congestion in Colombo had become a tedious problem, causing an economic loss of Rs. 1 billion daily. Besides, millions of man-hours are wasted due to vehicular congestion every day. Amal Kumarage, Senior Professor of the Moratuwa University’s Department of Transport & Logistics Management had told a state-owned newspaper in the same year that “the economic cost of traffic congestion amounts to Rs 400 Billion per annum and this amounts to 10 per cent of the GDP of the country.
According to the same year statistics, 510,000 vehicles and around 1.9 million passengers had entered the Colombo city every day and the demand for road space continues, the growth of passengers entering Colombo is expected to increase to around 4.4 million by 2035 according to some reports. Sometime back Professor Kumarage also said in another 20 years, Colombo will have to cope with three times the volume of traffic as personal incomes rise and private vehicles become more affordable and bus transport decreases. Therefore, the problem with public transport is not merely regularizing songs played within buses.