Public Transport Vital | Daily News

Public Transport Vital

Private vehicle owners should be encouraged to use public transport to save fuel and ease the traffic congestion.
Private vehicle owners should be encouraged to use public transport to save fuel and ease the traffic congestion.

Ever since the petrol engine motor bus and the railway train pulled by a coal powered steam locomotive replaced the palanquin, horse-drawn carriage, buggy cart and race cart, the poorer people walking long distances resting at the ambalama, and the steam lorry and motor lorry began to replace the double and single bullock carts to transport goods, it began to bring about economic and social progress. These modes of transport were introduced to the country no sooner they began to be used in Britain as Ceylon was a British colony.

The first motor bus was imported to the country in 1907 with the motor lorry following it to replace the coal powered steam lorry last seen being used by the Cargo Boat Dispatch Company to carry goods to and from the Colombo Port and the British Ceylon Corporation that extracted coconut oil and manufactured soap etc; it is a pity that there is no museum exhibiting these antique modes of conveyances for the pleasure of posterity and visitors to the country such as tourists.

The bus services improved vastly after setting up the Ceylon Transport Board in 1958, nationalizing the limited liability bus companies set up on the recommendations of the Nelson Commission to replace small bus company and owner-operator bus services, blue printed on London Transport consequent to recommendations of three surveys done from 1948 to 1955 the Sansoni Survey, Rutnam Survey and the Jayaratne Perera Survey. However, the pre-Nelson Commission system was re-introduced by the 1977Government to run in competition with the CTB. In India too corporation buses and private buses compete.

It is important in today’s context that public transport is used more and more to save on fuel in this crisis situation. Prime Minister and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, is not ruling out the introducing a rationing system to distribute fuel such as petrol, diesel and kerosene on the coupon. In any case it is good economics to provide fuel for the production and service sectors rather than for virtual pleasure trips.

The car and van owners who use their vehicles to go to office when public transport is available should not logically be issued with fuel coupons. It has been often pointed out that one person or two persons use vehicles to travel to their places of work causing both unnecessary fuel consumption and traffic congestion which again results in fuel wastage the vehicles being driven at a slow pace or not moving at all while the engine is running.

In a system of rationing priority will necessarily be given to public transport buses, school vans, lorries taking goods, container trucks carrying imports and exports from and to the ports and airports, buses and cars transporting tourists, three-wheeler and other taxis, vehicles transporting fish, meat, fruits, vegetables etc. It has already been made sure that Sri Lanka Transport Board buses and railway locomotives are provided fuel without any interruption.

The Ceylon Government Railway began operations in1865 running the first train from Colombo to Ambepussa and the motive power was provided by coal powered steam engines, the first diesel locomotive to be imported being in 1954. The railway is the cheapest mode of transport both of passengers and goods and passengers can travel in relative safety too.

Heavy goods such as cement, fertilizer, timber, iron and steel, livestock and fuel is transported with advantage by railway. Even containers have been transported by railway saving on fuel. However, these practices are followed only sporadically showing that interested parties making profits unjustly derail them. Making money at the expense of the good of the country in any manner has to be checked.

However, the practice of transporting petrol, diesel and kerosene to distant locations and aviation fuel to airports is still maintained. Interestingly, there were wooden box wagons painted railway-red to take horses to Nuwara Eliya during the horse racing days.

Public transport whether by bus or by train, has to be developed to save on fuel that is used excessively, causing economic loss to the country.

The use of private vehicles such as cars and vans indiscriminately burning immense quantities of fuel is a burden on the economy even in good times not to speak of adverse conditions such as the present. In a connected brain wave a patriotic participant at a recent TV talk show who loves the country and its people suggested that gasoline guzzling luxury vehicles owned by those in both public and private sector should be re-exported holding an international auction, as a sure and quick way of finding the dollars!

It was alright for the few politicians of the landed gentry of the 50s whom Tarzie Vittachchi called Wealthy Oriental Gentlemen (Wogs) and other landed proprietors and businessmen to use V8 American cars such as Plymouth, Ford Mercury, Ford Custom Line and Packard when the price of petrol was Rs. 2.50 a gallon!



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