ECONOMYNEXT – Private passenger bus services in Sri Lanka have been hit by fuel hoarding and rising costs of tyres, with 75 percent of buses running with fewer passengers, Sri Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (SLPOA) Chairman Gemunu Wijeratne said.
Since June 06, the SLPOA had more than halved the number of buses that used to operate before the prevailing unavailability of fuel, but now increased operations after the government permitted private bus operators to purchase fuel from the state-run Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) depots.
Wijeratne claimed that some 3,000 buses are out of service as bus owners cannot afford to buy tyres, with the increasing costs amid the country’s worst ever forex crisis. Sri Lanka’s overinflated vehicle market has begun to cool down due to the fuel crisis, but spare parts remain expensive.
“We are running at a loss because we are not operating at full capacity. Because the schools and government offices are closed, buses are practically empty in the afternoon,” said Wijeratne, speaking to EconomyNext.
Private buses now spend a longer time at bus stops waiting for passengers in an attempt to cover costs.
Meanwhile fuel hoarding was also adversely affecting bus owners who would have to wait longer in queues.
“We have asked the authorities to take action against hoarding. We cannot continue the usual operations or make any necessary changes if people who already have fuel are going rejoin the queue,” he said.
Lanka Auto Diesel, which is retailed at 400 rupees per litre can be found on the black market for over 1,000 rupees. Diesel theft has also become common in Sri Lanka, with filling station owners accused of being a part of an alleged “fuel mafia” contributing to long lines and increased scarcity.
Wijeratne said all buses would be operational once the number of passengers increased. (Colombo/Jun23/2022)