Indiscriminate issuing of route permits to private buses was cited by the Lanka Private Bus Owners Association yesterday.
Association president Gemunu Wijeratne told a media briefing that while there were around 18,000 private buses in the country, only 3,500 had route permits from the National Transport Commission (NTC). `The rest have received theirs from various Provincial Transport Authorities,` he said.
While it was legal to obtain route permits from transport authorities in the beginning, the President a few years back had ordered that route permits be issued only through the NTC, but the Presidential order has gone unheeded so far, Mr. Wijeratne said.
`The authority in charge gives route permits exceeding the normal limit to whomever he pleases and the buses run as the crew pleases without a proper timetable, thus causing major accidents,` he said.
It was alleged that the owner of the bus involved in the Yangalmodara tragedy last week had obtained the route permit through political connections during the previous regime, something that happened frequently, said Mr. Wijeratne.
`For years we forwarded proposals to better-organize the private bus service. Though we received many assurances that they would be seen to by the NTC and Provincial Transport Authorities, nothing has been implemented yet,` he added.
Mr. Wijeratne went on to say that if their proposals over the past year for a common timetable for the CTB and the private buses had been implemented, more accidents could have been prevented. He accused the Transport Minister of refusing to acknowledge the importance of a common timetable and said that therefore the public could expect more accidents in the future.
The association stressed that therefore the blame cannot be put solely on them as they had to respect the relevant authorities.
`The only alternative is to give sole administration of private passenger transport to the private bus owners. We are ready to accept all blame then,` Mr. Wijeratne said.
He added that in a bid to better organize themselves the association would begin by making bus workers permanent employees.
While they would be given appointment letters, a database of over 45,000 of bus workers` names will be set up. `We are tired of waiting for the authorities to implement our proposals,` the bus association president said.
`While we strongly recommend the sternest punishment for those responsible for the Yangalmodara tragedy we are ready to pay compensation to the victims and their families,` he said.