By Tissa Kotinkaduwa
The bus operational system and the maintenance system of the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) which was nationalised in 1956 were at a higher standard at the inception. Two main workshop were established at Werahera and Ja-Ela to rehabilitate and repair damaged buses as some of the bus depots lacked sufficient facilities to undertake the task.
The workshop at Ekala was one of the busiest workshops and it was endowed with the task of assembling parts which were imported from India and manufacturing a bus in the past. When a bus engine reached its maximum usage, the bus was taken to the workshop, fixed with a rehabilitated engine within six hours and returned to the respective bus depot. This was how healthy the relationship between the workshop and the bus service was.
However, due to various reasons including the arrival of local buses such as Latec, the SLTB lost both workshops at Werahera and Ja-Ela. This story is about the revival of the SLTB workshop at Ja-Ela as a profitable entity under the Transport Ministry. The workshop, which was revived as the Lakdiva Engineering Company, today fulfilling a great service.
Lakdiva Engineering Company Chairman and Engineer E.A.T. Edirisooriya said Transport Minister Arjuna Ranatunga’s first priority as the minister was to revitalize the reproduction of buses.
Accordingly, seven buses which were abandoned as hopeless cases were reproduced in February this year, 14 in March and 24 buses in July. Up to July this year, the company had reproduced a total of 86 buses since February.
Eng. Edirisooriya said the company has earned a profit of Rs. 17.2 million for the first seven months. “This is a win-win situation for both the company and the SLTB,” he said.
He said the company was operational on the funds of the Treasury until 2018 and Minister Ranatunga was influential in reviving the company up to its current standard.
“The company mainly reproduces dilapidated buses. We have different divisions including electrical, painting and the carpentry divisions. Once a bus is reproduced, our officials conduct a complete quality control test to ensure its standard. All employees are committed to rehabilitate
damaged buses. We expect to reproduce 20 to 25 buses per month from now on,” he said.
The company employees, who couldn’t even afford to help themselves to a cup of tea for a concessionary price, today enjoy concessionary priced bus tickets and other privileges.
Without limiting to bus maintenance, the company has expanded its scope to other areas with the guidance of the Transport Minister. Accordingly, a new model bus was manufactured last month. The bus equipped with the latest facilities, had been completed at a cost 30% less than the cost of manufacturing a normal bus.
Chairman Eng. Edirisooriya also said the preparations of an emission testing centre were being finalised and scheduled to be opened at the end of this month.
Transport Minister Ranatunga said their objective was not to privatise public institutions but to preserve them.
“We can’t adopt a snails pace when we do this or confine to a snail shell. Therefore, we have to think beyond reproducing buses and venture into other areas as well. Accordingly, the emission test centre will be opened soon. We are looking at the possibility of repairing railway engines as well. Additionally, a training centre for drivers and a vehicle repairing vocational centre will be added in the future. We hope to repair both state and private vehicles as well,” he said.
Lakdiva Engineering Company which spans over 25 acres has high potential and has no shortage of committed employees and latest technology.
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