Sun, 05 Dec 2021 Today's Paper

Passara bus accident: Trading accusations on road to investigation

24 March 2021 03:31 am - 16     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A A A

The ill-fated Bus 

 

  • Skewed driving, fallen boulder or inaction by authorities ?
  • The NTC regulates long distance buses and they should ensure that these time tables don’t overlap
  • Even though President Rajapaksa promised to appoint professionals for regulatory authorities, it is politicians that are ruling these bodies
  • Gemunu Wijeratne says that timetables need to be fixed first and that checking worn out tyres and issuing a new licences for bus drivers. aren’t practical measures
  • A committee has also been appointed to investigate into the matter
  • National Transport Commission conduct programmes to raise awareness on road safety

 

It has been revealed that there’s an alarming increase in accidents as some bus drivers have poor knowledge of driving passenger transport vehicles

 

“Those with a skewed walk habitually check if we are walking straight,” read the slogan detached from the Lunugala-Colombo bus that skidded off the road and fell into a 200 metre precipice at Passara along the Moneragala-Badulla road. While 15 passengers succumbed to injuries, 33 others including the driver were injured and are receiving treatment at the Badulla General Hospital. CCTV footage revealed the bus driver taking a sharp turn to make room for the tipper truck approaching from the opposite side, but unfortunately his attempt wasn’t successful. A boulder that had fallen onto the road also narrowed the stretch on which vehicles were moving. Experts observe that the relevant authorities haven’t taken measures to put up barriers to alert passengers to be more vigilant. The accident is said to be the worst to take place after the Yangalmodara bus-train clash that killed 33 people in 2005.

Bus falling into the precipice

 

Sri Lanka’s road safety at its worst 

A World Bank report published in 2020 highlighted that Sri Lanka has the worst road fatality rate among its neighbours in the South Asian region. The study further stated that the annual road crash deaths per capita in Sri Lanka is twice the average rate in high income countries and five times that of the best performing countries in the world. As per data in the report, an average of 38,000 crashes take place annually which result in around 3000 fatalities and 8000 serious injuries. The report further mentioned that Sri Lanka would require an additional investment of around USD 2 billion to achieve the desired Sustainable Development Goal which is to reduce national road crash fatalities by 50%. Seventy percent of road crashes involve low-income commuters and motorists. Fatigue, drunk driving, speed, tyre bursts or animal crossings have been identified as the main causes for crashes. 10% of fatalities are also said to occur at railroad crossings. 

“Drivers with heavy vehicle licences will not be allowed to drive passenger transport vehicles. This attempt is to introduce a new driving license to those who drive passenger buses” 

- State Minister of Transport Dilum Amunugama

 

 

Boulder that has fallen onto the road

 

Special operations launched 

A day after the incident Sri Lanka Police launched a three-day special operation to inspect worn-out vehicle tyres. According to Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana faulty conditions of vehicles are the root cause for fatal accidents. Therefore, if a person is found to be using a vehicle with worn-out tyres he could be fined up to Rs. 3500 and if a person is injured by such a vehicle a fine of Rs. 25,000 would be charged in addition to the usual penalty imposed for causing injury. 


In a separate move State Minister of Transport Dilum Amunugama said that drivers with heavy vehicle licences will not be allowed to drive passenger transport vehicles. This attempt is to introduce a new driving licence to those who drive passenger buses. The State Minister further said that there’s an alarming increase in accidents as these drivers have poor knowledge of driving passenger transport buses.

 

Expert reports on road safety have been put aside 

“Speed limits should be imposed throughout the country and a scientific process is required to eliminate accidents,” opined Prof. Amal Kumarage of the Department of Transport and Logistics Management at the University of Moratuwa. He has also served as Chairman of the National Transport Commission on three occasions and negotiated and introduced several strategic reforms in the bus sector.“But why didn’t the authorities see this coming? Many reports have been submitted highlighting road safety, speed limits on main roads, how institutional structures should be changed, but these have been put aside. When an incident happens, the Police, Road Development Authority, Public transport operators will react. Even the media try to focus only on this particular incident and do not talk about how all roads need to be made safe for travelling.” said Prof. Kumarage. 
He further said that Sri Lanka needs to view how Presidents in other countries have included expert suggestions and observations in their policies. “The RDA is responsible for putting necessary safeguards and ensure that buses have around six GPS tracking devices. These matters come under the purview of the National Transport Commission. But even though specific instructions have been given, they were not implemented.” he added. 

“We conduct programmes to raise awareness on road safety. If passengers complain of faulty driving or misconduct on the part of drivers or conductors then we take action” 

- National Transport Commission Chairman Nilan Miranda

Timetables need to be fixed

“When the Yangalmodara incident took place we thought the authorities would take action to minimise road accidents, but nothing has changed since then,” said Lanka Private Bus Owners Association Chief Gemunu Wijeratne. “We requested for a meeting with the President to talk about streamlining road safety, minimising traffic and fatal accidents that have been taking place. It’s not only buses that meet with such accidents, but heavy vehicles, three-wheelers, bikes and other vehicles too are included. After sometime people will forget this incident. The RDA is partly responsible for not removing the boulder that had fallen onto the road. The driver was blamed for irresponsible driving, but he’s an experienced driver.” said Wijeratne. 


Speaking on capacity, Wijeratne said that the bus had to be loaded with passengers from Badulla. “The timetables have been scheduled, so that buses overlap. So every bus is trying to keep up with time and load passengers. The NTC regulates long distance buses and they should ensure that these time tables don’t overlap. There are no timetables for around 50 routes. On the other hand there is a prevailing licence mafia. Even though President Rajapaksa promised to appoint professionals for regulatory authorities, it is politicians that are ruling these bodies. On the other hand the area Police division is also at fault because they failed to take necessary safety measures at this place.” opined Wijeratne. 


When asked about GPS tracking devices in buses, Wijeratne said that those are not important. “Timetables need to be fixed first.  Now they are checking worn out tyres and they are issuing a new licence for bus drivers. But these are not practical measures,” he said. 

“But why didn’t the authorities see this coming? Many reports have been submitted highlighting road safety, speed limits on main roads, how institutional structures should be changed, but these have been put aside. When an incident happens, the Police, Road Development Authority, Public transport operators will react”

- Prof. Amal Kumarage of the Department of Transport and Logistics Management at the University of Moratuwa

 

No overlap in timing 

However, National Transport Commission Chairman Nilan Miranda said that there are 456 timetables for all Island long distance buses. “At present there are 3200 long distance buses. We have also ensured sufficient amount of rest for them. We have set up restroom facilities with A/C, TV, washrooms and other facilities. These are specially made for drivers and conductors. But these aren’t available in the outskirts.” said Miranda. 


Responding to a query regarding the overlap in timetables Miranda said that it is the responsibility of the provincial transport authority. “As per the timing there has been no overlap. The bus was supposed to reach Passara at 7.15 am and the accident had taken place around 7.05 am. Usually long distance buses are expected to travel at around 40 kmph, but this depends on the area as well. The particular bus was registered with us as well. A committee has also been appointed to investigate into the matter,” he said. 


Miranda further said that financial support will be given to the victims of the accident and the families of the deceased. “We conduct programmes to raise awareness on road safety. If passengers complain of faulty driving or misconduct on the part of drivers or conductors then we take action.” he added. 

“It’s not only buses that meet with such accidents, but heavy vehicles, three-wheelers, bikes and other vehicles too are included. After sometime people will forget this incident. The RDA is partly responsible for not removing the boulder that had fallen onto the road. The driver was blamed for irresponsible driving, but he’s an experienced driver”

-Lanka Private Bus Owners Association Chief Gemunu Wijeratne

RDA yet to receive report

When contacted RDA Director General L.V.S Weerakoon said that a team of officials has been dispatched to inspect the site of the accident and that he is yet to receive a report.

  Comments - 16

  • JENNIFER Wednesday, 24 March 2021 12:36 PM

    MR CHARIMAN SPEAK UP FOR THE DRIVER. THEY TRY TO PUT THE BLAME ON THESE INNOCENT WAGE EARNERS. WHEN THE FAULT LIES ELSE WHERE

    Joshua Wednesday, 24 March 2021 03:42 PM

    Gemunu and his theories

    Ranaweera Wednesday, 24 March 2021 04:28 PM

    When an accident happens mainly due to human negligence , people are trying to blame each other. Ok agreed, there are several factors in the accident. But immediate cause is excessive speeding on a narrow road. Other factors contributed to the incident. If we want to build resilience then we need to adress all aspects. Some are short term, some are long term.

    Prof Lasantha Pethiyagoda Wednesday, 24 March 2021 08:52 PM

    In a country like China, the bus driver or whoever caused the accident by driving at speed with one hand while talking on a mobile phone with the other, resulting in the deaths of people will be publicly executed. In Japan the ministers responsible for road repair and safety would have immediately resigned. But the bastards in Sri Lanka don't care about the lives of its citizens. They will soon forget the incident after the usual blame game.

    Sarath Seneviratne Wednesday, 24 March 2021 10:35 PM

    Excessive speeding is most of the time welcome by passengers as they have beat the time. I have come across adverse comments from passengers about slow drivers.

    Nissanka Thursday, 25 March 2021 01:49 AM

    It's all about the negligence and indiscipline of the driver. This is not the first time that a driver should wait for the oncoming vehicle when there is no space to drive through. Is it very difficult to, 1. Set up a monitoring facility 2. Install driver monitoring systems/devices in all public transport at the bus owner's cost By setting up such system itself, driver would discipline automatically himself and avoid this unfortunate incidents. In developed countries these are essentials. There are simple tech solutions to human weaknesses, why not using them?

    Nimal Thursday, 25 March 2021 05:45 AM

    Basic problem road courtesy of the road has obstruction on the side your traveling one must stop and let the vehicle coming from the opposite direction pass

    Rajadurai samuel Thangarajan Thursday, 25 March 2021 07:44 AM

    with regards to tires a comprehensive vehicle inspection program should be implemented . now yearly emission test is only carried out. eg in UAE yearly Licence is renewed after vehicle is checked for emission,brakes,Tire condition,signal lights,wiperblades.emergency reflector etc.

    JayWanni Thursday, 25 March 2021 09:07 AM

    Traffic police should be revamped. A civilian should be appointed over the inefficient and ineffective DIG in charge of Traffic police to revamp the present lethargic, swollen headed officers, whose intelligence is below par

    Wera De Cruz Thursday, 25 March 2021 10:13 AM

    These buses are actually Lorry chassis. The Ashok Leyland Lorry does not have any power assistance to the driver such as power steering, Automatic Gears, power assisted brakes. Nothing whatsoever and totally unsuitable to be buses. But yet we have these brutes driven by emaciated drivers. They have always been an accident waiting to happen.

    john elwyn jones Thursday, 25 March 2021 12:20 PM

    Total tosh. Buses need to be inspected by the owners if found unsafe, they should not run the bus. The only problem is, are there any honest bus owners! Traffic police are useless they target trishore drives as they are easy, they stand alongside buses with bald and dangerous tyers and do nothing! Even municipal buses are unsafe!

    Truth matter Thursday, 25 March 2021 04:59 PM

    why Police did not alert RDA to remove sands and rocks on the side of the road, This bus driver had two choices either to crush the bus on incoming truck or give away a way to him. He tried give away a way for incoming truck then bus went down. so, RDA should take responsibility for not clearing road. if this happened in any western country, some people in RDA will be charged with Man slaughter of 15 people and injuring more. Do not these people in RDA get salaries from public money. public have all right to question them.

    Christopher Seneviratne Thursday, 25 March 2021 09:27 PM

    It is after precious lives are lost that the Authorities react including successive Governments.

    Gregory St. Elmo Brian Ratnayake Friday, 26 March 2021 07:43 AM

    I have observed insufficient safety signs on roads especially in the hill country. These signs should include maximum speed limits.

    kondata77 Saturday, 27 March 2021 12:26 AM

    Baring music is one incident of driver distraction, having music played in a bus should be banned.

    Ranaweera Sunday, 28 March 2021 02:50 PM

    There are good action items coming out from the column. I hope that someone in the government reads these and take note and produce some actionable list.


Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment





A Sri Lankan giving dignified burials to unclaimed bodies for five decades

After their death, most people are memorialized at a service, surrounded by g

Focus on Laggala Gem mining big shots bigger than the law

The truth is now being uncovered regarding an illegal mining racket in state

How and why the TNA was formed twenty years ago

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is now twenty years of age. The premier pol

India lays emphasis on culture diplomacy with Sri Lanka

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to inaugurate the Kushinagar Inter