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EDITORIAL - Need for better public transport

2 March 2015 06:41 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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he need for a better public transport system has been long felt. But the previous administration seems to have got it wrong despite spending billions on physical infrastructure.
Their solution to mitigate traffic congestion was to build expressways and widen the existing road network. But the problems still remain. A lot more vehicles are now being driven on the Sri Lankan roads and in 2014 we have imported US $ 900 million worth of vehicles and US 44.6 billion worth of fuel to pump into them.



This has widened the country’s trade gap over 9 percent or by US $ 8.9 billion compared to the previous year.
This shows the country cannot go along this path. There is an imminent requirement to find a sustainable solution.
There is no bigger misconception than believing that the number of cars on the road reflects how developed a country is.
But unfortunately some of our politicians point at that very fact as ‘development.’ If the people feel that they do not require personal vehicles as they totally can rely on public transport—that is development. For that, the public transport needs to be comfortable, efficient, safe and affordable.  
Some have raised questions regarding the expressway connecting the capital Colombo with Galle regarding the cost incurred to build it and the income it is creating, which is insufficient for its maintenance and the loan payments. Has it been able to improve the quality of life of Sri Lankans? Well, yes. But for how many? That is the tricky question.



However, expressways are a positive development and a network of expressways connecting all the main cities in the country is a must. Many in Kandy are wondering when the expressway to Kandy would become a reality given the high congestion on the Colombo-Kandy road and the amount of time wasted on the road.
At the same time the focus of the new government should now be on a better public transport system. Sri Lanka has enough experts in the field of transport and economics who can be tapped to draw a master plan. The new government should immediately look into appointing a commission to draw a master plan to develop the country’s public transport system.
Whether it be, bus, underground train or monorail, the involvement of the private sector in the process is vital so that these projects will not have any burden on public financing.



In countries like Malaysia and Singapore, the entire public transport system is built and maintained by the private sector under the BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) model. Sri Lanka is also taking such an approach in building the country’s public transport structure in its national interest.
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