Implement a national transportation policy - Dr. Gunaruwan | Sunday Observer

Implement a national transportation policy - Dr. Gunaruwan

Implementing one of the several national transportation policies that were formulated since the 1990s, will help develop a sound transportation system in the country reducing congestion, environmental pollution and loss to the economy in terms of fuel use, a transportation sector economist said.

There have been several national transportation policies drafted from time to time, but none of them have been implemented. All transportation policies beginning with the National Development Council’s Transportation Policy in the late 1990s, to the national policy on transportation formulated under the present government in 2015, contain more or less the same strategies to improve transportation.

Senior Lecturer, University of Colombo, Dr. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan said there is absolutely no hum about any of the transportation policy documents since those drafted in the 1990s to the latest under the present government. There has been policy after policy but nothing has been implemented to lift transportation from its dire straits.

“All subsequent governments since the late 1990s are accountable for the non implementation of the transportation policies. Had one of them been implemented, the transportation sector would have improved drastically,” he said. The National Development Council’s Transportation Policy recommended three strategies - encouraging the shift toward public transportation from private transportation modes, move from road to rail transportation and reduce transportation demand by providing substitute methods such as telecommunication facilities, providing housing close to railway stations, public transportation bus terminals and setting up more schools and hospitals in rural areas to do away with the need to travel to Colombo.

There had been a policy document drafted in the year 2000, a policy under the Mahinda Chinthanaya for sustainable transportation and a comprehensive document formulated by the National Transportation Commission and the University of Moratuwa in 2009.

“What has happened to all the transportation policy documents of the governments up to now? They are accumulating dust on shelves at the expense of the country and its economy. A Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System was introduced but no action has been taken to-date,” Dr. Gunaruwan said.

BRT is a bus-based public transport system designed to improve capacity and reliability to the conventional bus system. It aims to combine the capacity and speed of a metro with flexibility, lower cost and simplicity.

Transportation experts also said the main problem today in the transportation sector is the reducing share of the usage of public transport due to the increasing trend towards the use of more private transportation modes which is congestion creating. Private transportation modes have less carrying capacity. A bus could accommodate around 100 passengers whereas a car could only transport four to five and a motor cycle two.

Besides a bus has one and half times occupying space than a car and two times a three wheeler. Private transportation modes are high fuel intensive compared to public transportation. While a car would travel around 10-12 km on a litre of fuel, the fuel efficiency of a bus is much higher.

Statistics reveal that the rate of usage of public transportation has declined from around 80 percent to 50 percent during the past 20 years.

‘The drop in the use of public transportation is not, though many think it is, an indication of development. An effective transportation system could be created by reversing the trend with the shift to the use of public transportation modes,’ Dr. Gunaruwan said.

However the general view is that public transportation is not up to the mark due to the poor standards of facilities and service.

Quality public transportation similar to that in developed countries will attract more users even without a national policy, a transportation sector specialist said. 

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