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Private Bus Service: Is It a Real Service Provider to the Nation?

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Submitted By nuwani
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Private bus service: Is it a real service provider to the nation?
Today, people have begun to express their frustration over the unfair increase of bus fares from time to time in the recent past. It has become the widespread subject of arguments among the public.
A certain bus ownership has threatened an increase in bus fares on its own from September but the Transport Commission has categorically emphasised that transport permits would be revoked against any illegal increase of bus fares. This cold war between a particular bus ownership and the Government has become hot news in the media these days.
It has been the practice throughout to raise bus fares every year irresponsibly with the approval of the Transport Commission without any reliable excuse.
The increase in fuel prices were followed by another instance of raising private bus fares last February. Regrettably, the most affected are the middle class and the public with low incomes who use buses for their daily travel.
In the interest of the general public, the Transport Commission is duty-bound to review if private bus services, after experience of 35 years, have won the confidence of commuters with such a remarkable service as pledged at the inauguration in 1978. Nationalisation
With nationalisation of bus companies by the Bandaranaike Government in 1958, a longstanding progressive demand by the people, the Ceylon Transport Board which was the key body of national transport was established to provide an excellent service to the nation.
At the time, it was the largest authority of omnibus service operative in the world – with about 7,000 buses and over 50,000 employees together with mammoth workshops like the Piliyandala Werahera Maintenance Centre. But the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) as a semi-Government institution had to compete with the private bus service launched in 1978 under the new open economy.
With the change of government in 1977, an open economic policy or market-oriented economic policy was introduced to create new economic order to provide more benefits to the nation. The leaders of the then Government did not wish to use the word ‘privatisation’ as it would create unpleasant criticism against the Government. Diplomatically the word used was ‘peopleisation’ instead of ‘privatisation’. However the basic objective was to help create more private sector businesses. Subsequently, the private bus service became operative in 1978 as a result of these changes.
In launching they pledged to provide comfortable accommodation throughout the journey for the passengers. 29 seated buses were used with the exact number of seating passengers. No standingpassengers were entertained. The CTB bus fare was 50 cents from Mount Lavinia to Galle Face while private bus fare was Re. 1.00.
The poor passengers who travelled by the SLTB observed private bus service as one introduced with new comfortable accommodation for those who could afford expensive fare. As it appeared, only a privileged crowd was commuting via the private bus service. The objective of private bus service to facilitate an advanced transport service came a cropper after a few years since, breaching all values of private sector business sector.

Private sector role
Today the private sector plays a remarkable role of its contribution to build the national economy with due recognition by the entire nation. It is the general consensus that the private sector owns a well-planned economic system with high responsibility to promote a meaningful development.
The private sector has proved its competence in investments, trading, providing services, creation of employment opportunities and earning revenue by their skills and enthusiastic effort to boost the national economy. Therefore the majority recognised the private sector as the engine of growth of the economy.
There are formal and informal sectors in private business. The most notable unpopular informal business sector is the private bus service that has caused erosion of public confidence.
Public commute expects a better delivery of goods from bus service on the striking high bus fare paid through the nose within a mound of unbearable burdens. Insurance, telecommunications, etc., were privatised under the Open Economic Policy in a bid to make a bridge of friendship between the customer and the ownership with professional service since investments were initiated by well-organised reputed personalities.
The entire private bus service is owned by persons linked with politicians or different individual characters in the society. Sadly, profit making takes precedence but not customer satisfaction.
Drivers and conductors are recruited without Police clearance of their social conduct solely on discretion of the owner. These illiterate drivers and conductors do not seem to have the modicum of decency to respect the passenger. They need proper training before they are detailed for work.
CTB maintains a personal file for each employee appointed through an approved scheme of recruitment. In addition a log of entry for complaints by the public is also maintained to address the stability of a good administration. But in private sector, there is no such facility made available for complaints to be lodged.
Intoxicated with arrogance of power of the owners, certain drivers and conductors seem to have taken things into their hand. This is evidently proved by their unpleasing manner of speech to the passenger when asked for the ticket and the balance because certain conductors purposely do not issue a ticket for the fare paid and the due balance.
It has become a phenomenal truth that drivers and conductors appear on duty as if they are just woken up from bed. Those neatly dressed in uniform can hardly be found. The seats are arranged in congested and inconvenienced manner with the purpose of swelling their purse.
The worst is the fully packed line of standing passengers encouraging indecent behaviour of some corrupt elements who are engaged in breaking the law of the country. The resounding echo of the horn not only pollutes the environment but is also a nuisance to the gridlock of vehicles on the road. Thus these bus workers have become an abbreviated piece of nothing, so to speak. No peaceful travelling
Another undesirable situation prevalent in the bus is the deprivation of a peaceful travelling. Songs played in the bus are unsavoury with an unbearable volume polluting the calm environment in the bus. The songs played are so unsavoury and carefully selected to the taste of the drivers and conductors.
As reported in the media, most accidents causing the loss of precious life are due to the reckless driving by private bus drivers. Their competition of trying to overtake each other in violation of traffic rules regardless of the importance of life has become an alarming signal to the public. These lunatic drivers who do not respect the value of life are legally bound to compensate every drop of blood fallen due to their irresponsible driving mania.
All transport service institutions equipped with necessary facilities maintain a superb service to the customers. It is a sad situation to note that private buses are unclean and in poor condition, unfit for transportation of humans. Air conditioners are broken and remain unrepaired forever.
It is the lucrative interests of bus owners that take precedence over the commuting public. They are more concerned in increasing the bus fare than running a comfortable service to the nation. Is it not the duty of the bus ownership to encourage the public to commute bus service with the best facilities made available for convenient travel? Obviously they are not so altruistic to provide transport service with greater responsibility for the benefit of the commuter but to their own advantage. Service standards
In the United States, the driver operates the bus through the journey. It is the duty of the driver to help disabled passengers to board the bus and find a seat. Every passenger is issued a ticket and addressed in gentle manner. These drivers, like guardian angels to the passenger, have earned a good reputation in recognition of generosity, credibility and disciplined conduct. Their exemplary service is commendable.
In Australia, bus service is honoured with high priority over others as the prominent conveyor of transport. It is pleasing to observe that all vehicles slow down and pave way for buses to access the bus halt with great regard to commuters.
It behooves the bus ownership to train their personnel with good natured manners of winning the confidence of the public. The incumbent management of the CTB also has a greater responsibility to provide a better improved bus service to the country. the Government deserves commendation for its massive construction work launched in building new railway tracks and addition of more trains for convenience of the public. The Transport Commission has a responsible duty to bring the service to the apex of its glory in accordance with the pledge assured by the authorities.
It should be admitted that we cannot equal the transport service of international standard like in Japan but a convenient and respectable service is called for. Sri Lanka will become the ‘Miracle of Asia’ by development of all sectors, with particular focus on the private bus service.
Good governance of transport requires examining the conditions of private buses as to whether they are honestly suitable for public commute. A regular check of mechanical fitness strictly equipped with all requirements for convenient travelling of the commuter is urgently needed with highest priority given by the authorities.
Apparently, buses are being checked by the flying squad of the Transport Authority just by standing by the side of the road but never inside the bus. It is therefore advisable for the Transport Authority to realise the cardinal importance of providing a better commute and regularly checking those private buses that are violating the law.
The writer knows that this article will not be read by the ownership or drivers and conductors. But the door is open to the general public for comments and suggestions that would wake up the authorities from their slumber in an attempt to rebuild the best private sector bus service as a partner to the national development.
(The writer is the retired former Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications – Sri Lanka Export Development Board. He can be reached at t.k.premadasa@gmail.com.)
Comments
Transportation

The District of Hambantota is undergoing a period of radical transformation to become a major urban development, one of Sri Lanka’s five future metro cities and a strategic hub for economic development, tourism growth and regeneration initiatives. Investment in the national and regional transport and communication networks will underpin the delivery of the region’s ambitions; serving a migrating population and increasing demand for tourism across the Southern Province. There are a number of major transport infrastructure schemes already underway which will improve connectivity across the District, Sri Lanka and internationally.
This is being achieved as part of Hambantota’s ambitious development plans; plans that are underway and will be implemented with or without the arrival of the Hambantota 2018 Commonwealth Games (the Games). Once complete, this new infrastructure will form the basis of a modern and efficient transport network that will support the development of the District and upon which the Games Transport Strategy can be based.
The Games Park will be served by loop road, which connects to the back ofhouse areas for all the main competition venues. Alternatively, a simple and effective internal highway system will make travel between venues very easy; the journey time between the Games Village and Games Park venues will be less than five minutes.
The rail extension will place the Games Park within 5km of a new rail stationwhich has direct links to Hambantota International Airport, Hambantota city, Matara, Galle and other prominent cities across Sri Lanka.
The Games Park is also within 13km of the Hambantota International Airport, allowing access to the Games Park venues and accommodation in 10 minutes. The Games-time transport systems will provide efficient and effective connections with off-site locations such as key hotels, cultural interest sites and the three competition venues at the Tissa cluster.
A public transport Games
The Games will be based on the use of public transport, building on the opportunity made available by historically low car use in Sri Lanka. Buses will form an integral part of the Games Transport Strategy, using existing buses and the newly acquired fleet which will form part of the improved national bus servicepost-Games. Park & Ride (P&R) services will be provided for all spectator arrivals at three main surface transport hubs and airport and rail stations. Spectators will be able to access the Games Park in under 35 minutes from all dedicated Games hotel clusters via Games-time shuttle services.
Hambantota International Airport transport
Hambantota International Airport will provide quick, direct links to the MMC and media accommodation, Games Family Hotel and the Games Village. Spectator shuttle buses or Games Family fleet services will connect the airport to the Games Park in around 10 minutes, along the newly upgraded Hambantota-Gonnoruwa-Meegahajandura road.
Access to Hambantota from Colombo
The journey time by road from Colombo to Hambantota will be dramatically reduced by a number of new highway schemes already under construction. The route from BIA to Colombo will be improved by the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway and Outer Circular Highway, due for completion in December 2011. The journey time on to Hambantota will be significantly shortened by the extended Southern Highway; a major new link between the west and south of the country. The total journey time between BIA and Hambantota will be around 2 hours 45 minutes.
Additional Transport Hubs will be provided at: * Suriyawewa Rail Station – to shuttle rail passengers to and from the venues * Hambantota International Airport – to shuttle air passengers to and from the venues.
Sri Lanka has an extensive bus fleet, with further developments planned prior to 2018. To meet the Games-time demands, the Ministry of Transport plans to fast-track the procurement of the 2019 and 2020 fleet, providing 1,000 additional buses for the Games Fleet. Sri Lanka Transport Sector | | | | | Sri Lanka’s strategic location at the crossroads of Asian trading routes has contributed to its growth as a regional trading hub. In 2003, the transport sector contributed 10 percent to the country’s GDP and generated about 4 percent of employment. Nonetheless, potential exists to further develop this island nation’s transport system.Roads: Roads are the backbone of the transport sector in the country. They are vital for the movement of people and goods and play an important role in integratingthe country, facilitating economic growth, and ultimately reducing poverty. National roads carry over 70 percent of the traffic in Sri Lanka. However, uncontrolled roadside development, as well as years of neglect and poor road maintenance have resulted in low travelspeeds and poor service. This has discouraged long distance traffic and hindered the spread of economic activities and development in regions other than the Colombo Metropolitan Area (CMA).Roads are extremely important for the large majority of Sri Lanka’s people who live in the villages - some 65 percent of the country’s population. They are often the only way for most rural people to reachessential services such as hospitals, schools, markets, and banks, which are mostly situated far from their villages.Although Sri Lanka enjoys a higher road density than in manydeveloping countries, the conditions and standards of the roads are inadequate to meet rapidly growing freight and passenger traffic. More than 50% of the natioal roads have poor or very poor surface condition and many are seriously congested. Inspite of the substantial increase in traffic volume there have been insufficient investments for construction of new highways or widening and improving existing roads. Over the past decade the investment in the road sector has been mainly concentrated on the rehabilitation of the exisitng road network.Railways. While Sri Lanka Railways (SLR) played a dominant role in the country’s transport sector until 1928, its share in passenger andfreight transportation has reduced to about 8 percent and 5 percent respectively. The railways continue to face serious competition from road transportation, and have been adversely affected by the country’s two-decade civil war. Since 1989, security threats have led to the suspension of services on the only two profitable lines: the Northern Line beyond Vavunia, and the Talaimannar Line.Ports. Sri Lanka has several large ports such as Colombo, Galle, Trincomalee, and Kankasanthurai, as well as harbours. The Port of Colombo, the country’s premier commercial port, is one of the better performing ports in Asia. It handles both conventional cargo as well as containers, and has been acknowledged as one of the most economical ports in the region.ChallengesTo place the country on a path of economic growth, the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) needs to address several serious weaknesses in the country’s transport infrastructure. These are: weak institutional capacity at all levels; the inability of transport agencies to mobilize resources; and an underdeveloped private sector. These weaknesses result in the inadequate upgrading, development, and maintenance of assets, which adversely affects the quality of transport services. As a result, the sector experiences the following bottlenecks: * Low capacity of highways and lack of expressways to connect major growth centres. National highways, which are mostly two-lane, are unable to carry the current volume of mixed traffic (pedestrians, bikes, bullock-pulled-vehicles and motor vehicles). This, together with the lack of side lanes and paved shoulders, leads to uncontrolled development of roadsides and causes low travel speeds, poor level of service, and less long-distance traffic. * Severe deterioration of provincial and local roads. Neglected maintenance, as well as the lack of official capacity and resources, has led to the severe deterioration of roads. This adversely affects farmers taking produce to markets and villagers travelling to cities to reach social services. * Traffic congestion in town centres and lack of enforcement of city road regulations. Cities suffer from slow traffic, unenforced driving and parking regulations, narrow roads, inappropriately designed junctions, and poorly marked lanes. A high percentage of buses - some 60 percent - do not meet safety standards. Urban streets are in poor condition due to flooding, blocked drains, heavy traffic, and low quality construction. The lack of drainage poses a serious threat to traffic in congested areas, affects people’s health, and hampers the development of commerce and tourism. * Poor condition of railways and deteriorated services. The lack of maintenance funds has led to the poor condition of tracks, bridges, and railway stations. In addition, the number of locomotives is insufficient while those that are available are obsolete, and signalling and communication systems are outdated. This causes significant delays in train schedules, as well as dangerous derailments.Key Government InitiativesIn its election manifesto (Mahinda Chintana), the Government of Sri Lanka recognizes an urgent need to invest in the improvement of its transport infrastructure to meet the country’s economic and social needs and “foster pro-poor growth and reduce regional disparities”. Priority actions are as follows: * Upgrade international and domestic airports. The BIA-Katunayake Airport near Colombo is expected to emerge as a regional hub between Singapore and Dubai, and connect by seaplane to domestic airports to facilitate transport and tourism. * Develop shipping and ports.The aim is to improve the competitiveness of Sri Lanka’s ports compared to those in southern India and the Persian Gulf region, and introduce the next generation of deep draught ships. The sub-sector is open for public-private partnerships and the government is eager to promote investment. * Improve road infrastructure. Build a modern road network, and upgrade existing roads to meet the country’s economic and social development needs, connect poor regions and production centres to domestic and international markets, enhance road safety, and promote private sector participation in infrastructure improvement.Infrastructure development is of paramount importance to meet the Government’s target of economic growth at 6 to 8 percent each year for the next five years. To this end, the medium term target is to substantially increase expenditure on transport infrastructure from 5 percent in 2004 to 7 percent of Gross Domestic Production (GDP) by 2006.World Bank SupportFrom the late 1960s to the mid-1990s,the World Bank provided four loans to improve Sri Lanka’s roads and assisted in the development of sector policy. More recently, the Bank approved the largest ever investment assistance in the form of a US$100 million credit to finance the maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading of the country’s national highways and support the government’s reform initiatives for financing sustainable road maintenance. This loan was made effective on March 2006. In addition, the Bank is supporting the Government on its review of the efficiencyof road sector expenditures. |

Sri Lanka�s first highway, �Southern Expressway� opens

By Dr. Janaka Wijesundara
Sri Lanka�s first highway of the country�s proposed highway network system, the �Southern Expressway�, numbered as E-01, connecting country�s capital city and the Southern Provincial city, Matara via major cities of Western and Southern Provinces is ready for its operation from today. Sri Lanka�s proposed highway network system as per Road Development Authority�s current plans consists of five highways namely, Colombo Katunayake Expressway (25 Km), Southern Expressway (126 Km) to be extended to Hambanthota, Outer Circular Highway (28 Km), Colombo Kandy Highway (98 Km), Katunayake Anuradhapura Highway (154 Km) and to be connected to Jaffna through Northern Highway thus connecting seven provinces in the country while recently approved Sri Lanka�s National Physical Plan proposes a network to connect all nine provinces.
The planning of the Southern Expressway project goes back to 1990�s and during the recent past, the project was received a high priority and got accelerated to complete its first phase from Kottawa to Matara. This is one of the largest investments that the Sri Lankan government has undertaken to boost the country�s development. The cost of the entire project has been estimated as 100 billion Sri Lankan Rupees which includes the acquisition cost of around 2000 ha of land, environmental mitigation and management measures, addressing social issues of affected 5600 households (Source: Southern Expressway Report, RDA), highway and other road construction work including overhead passes, Toll Gates, offices and infrastructure facilities.

Transportation and highways in Sri Lanka
An efficient set of transport net work is primary to meet up with the challenges of the future developments of any country. Sri Lanka�s transport net work was primarily developed during the Colonial period for their business and administrative purposes, mainly to connect the towns and goods collection centres with the administrative capital of Colombo. The current road network of Sri Lanka which has a total length of 91,907 Km includes motorways, highways, main or national roads, secondary or regional roads, urban roads and rural roads (Source: Glossary of Transport Statistics, 2003). All the major intercity connections are running through busy towns consequently experiencing high traffic congestion and travel time on these roads has become enormously long. This travel time may also be drastically changed due to frequent unexpected situations on the roads such as motor accidents, lane closing for repair and maintenance, use of roads for public activities and functions.
As for planning, roads are conceived as a network. Justification for new roads is often in terms of improving connectivity and different needs are addressed by different kinds of transport net work systems. The expressways provide opportunities to connect suburbs and distant communities, make abilities to provide emergency services, ease traffic in urban centres and bring solutions for planning issues such as urban agglomerations. At the same time, the high initial expenditure and long payback periods; possible negative impacts on the natural environment and suburban landscape; social issues, expropriations, noise, air and light pollution; issues with road safety are significant among the issues that are associated with expressways.

In Sri Lanka, highways can be viewed against multiple factors;
a) The entire transportation and transit systems are not efficient and not up to the present day standards. Currently such systems are limited and they restrict to provide choices and options for those needs. Whereas in ideal situations the system would includes local transit (bus, streetcar), rapid or express transit (subway, BRT, LRT) with limited access and increased speed, and commuter or regional transit (commuter train, highway express bus) for long distance. Other than the ground transportation systems, water and air transport systems are rarely used in Sri Lanka.
b) The existing road network within cities and in-between cities does not have the adequate carrying capacity for the demands generated. According to Motor Traffic Department, there is a 48.5% of increase of total registered vehicles of cars, three wheelers and motor cycles during the first ten months of the year as compared to the same period last year. The potentials to upgrade the existing roads by means of road widening would not only costs, but also lead to serious socio-cultural and political conflicts.
c) Our social system is such that vehicle owners prefer travelling by their own vehicles rather than taking public transport. They are further discouraged to use public transport again due to its inefficiency, unattractiveness, safety issues (9.1 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles; UNESCAP report �Status of Road Safety in Asia�, 2006) and non-reliability.
d) The efficient ways of goods and products distribution and transportation will be a prime need with the change of our economies especially with the establishment of industrial zones and production centres in distant locations in the country and other economic activities such as tourism.
e) The connectivity is one of the primary factors that direct the pattern of urbanisation. Efficient connectivity will help to control the social and economic polarization and urban agglomeration which is currently seen in Sri Lankan towns as against to living and working in high populated cities as people�s one and only choice.
f) Effective transport leads to improved social development and economic growth while improved mobility has a major positive impact on the poverty. It is seen that many remote hamlets in the southern interiors along the Southern Expressway are now being transformed into significant sub-urban service centres.

Planning, design and construction
The Southern Transport Development Project is the first access controlled expressway constructed in Sri Lanka. It is a 125.57 km long dual carriageway Expressway between Colombo and Matara and financed through foreign and domestic funds. The expressway between Kottawa and Kurundugahahetekma is 66.5km long and this section is divided into two parts: The JBIC -funded section, 35 Km long Package 1 is from Kottawa to Dodangoda and the Package 2 extends 31.675 Km from Dodangoda to Kurundugahahetekma. From Kurundugahahetekma to Pinnaduwa is mainly funded through ADB. The section from there to Godagama in Matara is to be mainly funded through Chinese EXIM Bank and considered as the second phase yet to be completed.

The Project�s Environmental Impact, monitoring and mitigation is carried out in accordance with the Environmental Action Plan prepared based on the Environmental Management Plan. Either sides of the highway falls within the UDA development regulation as a restricted development zone extending from the outer edge of the 10 metre wide buffer zone up to a 500 metre setback from the centre of the expressway for controlling developments. One of the ideas that could have been deliberated for this project is maintaining of a thick green belt with trees along its right of way which would be an effective solution for many environmental and social issues as effectively done in highways in some other countries.
The entire project from Kottawa to Matara consists of 11 interchanges and the first construction phase of package I and II, includes eight interchanges located at Kottawa, Kahathuduwa, Galenigama, Dodangoda, Welipenna, Kurundugahahetekma, Nayapamula and Pinnaduwa. Except Kottawa, all other interchanges are already completed with entry and exit controls. The second phase consists of Imaduwa, Weligama and Godagama which is to be completed in due course. Though certain highway standards such as emergency lane and shoulder widths and distance from the drive lane to the road centre separator are scaled down, mainly to cut down the cost of the project, the Southern Expressway construction generally follows most of the key features seen in other modern international highways.

The consultancy service and the road construction works were mainly coordinated through foreign expertise. The section from Kurundugahahetekma to Matara (Godagama) was contracted to Kumagai Gumi of Japan. Package I section was contracted to China Harbour Engineering Company while Taisei Corporation of Japan handled package II. The supervision consultants are Pacific Consultant International and Oriental Consultants Pvt. Ltd. with Resources Development Consultant.

Design of toll gates
Whilst road design and construction is mainly from foreign expertise, all buildings and structures related to entry and exit at all interchanges were designed, detailed and supervised by the local expertise and constructed by Sri Lankan builders.
The University of Moratuwa offers the expertise services on all architectural and engineering aspects of the Toll Gates, Gate Office buildings, Traffic Operation Centre, power houses and other facilities of this project. The ongoing construction of Kottawa Toll gate has a total of 13 entry and exit gates. The architectural concept and the details of the buildings are developed to create a unique identity which blends with the typical characteristics of a highway complying with international highway project standards. The architectural concept of Toll Gates is characterised with reminiscent of the Sri Lankan traditional entrance gates that consist of series of columns and beams. The concept involves a great deal of emphasis on materiality. The entire Toll Gate structure constructed with reinforced concrete with exposed fare-faced concrete finish, gives more of a sculptural look. This project is one of the scarce situations where large surface areas of fare-faced concrete finish are used for buildings in Sri Lanka.

The flat roofs of the gates are colourfully landscaped with Boganvilla plants which are visible from the gate premises as well as from the highway. Though the original toll gate design includes special artistic symbols of the flag of each province on the gate fascia, with an initiative of symbolic representation of the people of different provinces, its implementation is yet to be consented by the Government authorities. In contrast to the fact that most of contemporary buildings in our country today seem to be missing the country�s local architectural identity, possibly as a result of the effects of globalisation, the designs of the buildings of this project are mainly developed with the idea of cultural embedding.

Yet the use of contemporary building materials available in the market considering the durability of the structures is significant while the minimization of the maintenance cost of the buildings is considered as a key design criteria. One of the other design decisions of this project is to maintain the exposed natural concrete textures on all concrete elements such as road curbs and barriers following international practice standards.
This is in contrary to the practice of painting them with yellow or black strips as mostly seen in many South Asian countries including Sri Lankan roads. The painting of such elements not only gives a cheap look, but also requires continues maintenance due to the peeling-off and fading of colours. It is a notable fact that in comparison to highway toll gate structures of developed countries around the world, Sri Lankan highway toll gates are unique and rich in architectural language, details and delicacy.

National projects and social enrichment
Sri Lanka�s first highway is opened as a toll route and ready for its service to the public. Yet its purpose may not be fully accomplished until the highway concept of Sri Lanka is developed as a network system. As of today it is questionable whether our drivers have got a real sense of using an expressway. It is no doubt that it would be very convenient to drive at a higher speed on such a road having no obstacles while enjoying the breathtaking views of the rural landscapes of southern Sri Lanka. However, the expressway is also associated with various risks and dangers such as possible accidents that may occur due to the negligence, impatience, bad driving habits, arrogance or speed racing which seem to be the most common reasons of today�s road accidents.
The accidents may also be caused due to the unexpected natural incidents such as hitting dogs or birds flying across the highway smashing right on to the windscreen. Maintaining of sufficient car gaps along with the travel speed would be extremely important and following of standard driving rules such as checking the blind spot before overtaking and lane changing must be highly critical. The vehicles also must be properly maintained in good condition and make sure they are not with faulty brakes, tires and faulty steering. At this juncture, it would be crucial that our drivers training and licensing procedures should be introduced with certain new requirements, skills and necessities in order to alleviate such issues.

This is seen in some developed countries that a special highway test is conducted to become a fully fledged driver who is thus qualified for various benefits including reduced motor insurance rates. What is important is that motorists are to be equipped not only with technical skills of driving, but also with moral qualities such as good attitudes, tolerance capacities, patience, road disciplines and paying respect to each other. Presently the motorists on our roads mostly seem to be lacking such moral qualities. At the same time examples can be seen in other countries that certain national projects and programs have influenced the life styles of the people and lead to constructive changes in their societies in terms of the values and attitudes.
The newly built highway undeniably brings us pride and self esteem uplifting country�s standards in many ways. In that context, could we anticipate that a project like �Southern Expressway� can persuade towards a positive and qualitative enrichment of our society?

(The writer is a senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture in the University of Moratuwa and he is the project architect of Toll Gate related facility buildings of Southern Expressway Project. The author can be reached through jwijesundara@uom.lk)

Japan co-financed Southern Expressway vested with public
Japan recognises an efficient road network is a basic requisite needed for social and economic development, because such a connectivity of communities can attract new investments generating more and more job opportunities. It is in this context Japan provided Sri Lanka with 36.3 billion Japanese Yen (approximately Rs. 47.2 billion) to construct the first expressway of the country.

Japanese funds were used to construct 66.1 kilometres - the first section of the Southern Expressway from Kottawa to Kurundugahahetekma. The Asian Development Bank financed the remaining 29.3 kilometres up to Galle. The new expressway will no doubt ease the traffic congestion and reduce the travel time between Colombo and Galle. It will also make the southern region more accessible and more attractive.

Due to high importance that Japan put to this project, the opening ceremony will be attended by Yasushi Akashi, representative of the Japanese Government for peace building, rehabilitation and reconstruction in Sri Lanka along with Nobuhito Hobo, Ambassador to Sri Lanka and representative from JICA.

Southern Transport Development Project
The Southern Expressway connecting the Western and Southern Provinces is Sri Lanka�s first toll expressway. It will allow vehicle speeds of 100 km per hour without signals reducing dramatically the travel time between the sea and airports of the Colombo commercial capital and the commercial centres of the Southern Province, Galle. It will contribute to growth of tourism, better logistics, mitigation of traffic congestion, and regional economic development.
The 126 km long expressway extends from Kottawa in the Colombo District to Godagama in the Matara District. The section from Kottawa to Pinnaduwa in Galle District together with the Galle Port Access Road will open to the public on November 28, 2011 while Pinnaduwa-Godagama section will complete in year 2013.
The 67 km of the four-lane expressway from Kottawa to Kurundugahahetekma funded by Japan consists of five interchanges and four river bridges including the 695m long bridge over Bentara Ganga - the country�s longest bridge.

Facilities
The access-controlled four-lane expressway consists of 11 interchanges that allow entry to and exit from the main townships in the south western coastal belt. A road-toll is payable at exit based on the distance travelled. A manually operated toll system will be used initially for toll collection. The system will be expanded to include a touch-and-go card system, and ETC (electronic toll collection) financed by JICA soon.
Toll plazas and toll offices are constructed at the Interchanges to collect tolls. The expressway facilities include four emergency coordinating centres, two maintenance offices, a traffic operation centre and a rest area with essential facilities. A special expressway police unit together with fire and paramedic crews will be deployed for emergencies and for assisting with traffic operations.

Implementation and funding
The Southern Transport Development Project is implemented by the Road Development Authority (RDA) under the guidance of Ministry of Ports and Highways.
China EXIM Bank funds the section from Pinnaduwa to Godagama and Galle Port. JICA also funds the toll plazas, offices and other facilities, and the interim and permanent toll collection system for the entire expressway. Vehicles required for operation and maintenance including special vehicles such as tow-trucks, cranes, fire engines, ambulances and police vehicles are jointly financed by JICA and ADB.

Capacity building
In addition to financial support for construction and supply of goods and services, both JICA and ADB also support capacity building of the expressway operation and personnel maintenance. ADB loan assistance covers capacity building for mainly the maintenance aspects of the expressway while JICA provides technical cooperation (grant assistance) to train and establish systems for tolling and traffic operations.
Under the JICA�s technical cooperation, two Japanese long-term experts from expressway management companies in Japan, and several Japanese short term experts have provided training. They shared their knowledge and experience with over 300 toll collection and traffic management staff.

Environmental safeguards
Environmental protection measures were especially considered in the construction. Within the Southern Transport Development Project, JICA financed widening and dredging of the canal network in Kahathuduwa area to mitigate flooding. This area which has been subject to frequent inundation prior to the project has experienced no major inundation since then.

Road Safety
Since the access-controlled and toll expressway is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka, most people are not familiar with related signs, regulations and rules. Therefore, road safety is highly important for its operation. Although JICA assisted improvement of traffic management, Expressway Police and RDA patrol team will be deployed since improvement of expressway user�s traffic manners is essential for better road safety measures and improvement of traffic manners of drivers when using they use the expressway.

Is 80km per hour a �minimum speed�?
By Merrick Peiris
With the scheduled opening of the Southern Highway, a recent media report stated that the new highway would have a minimum speed limit of 80 km per hour. This statement raises some alarming questions. Is this the legal limit set by a road traffic act to charge against a driver? If a vehicle in front slows down below this limit what option has a a driver behind it to keep to the minimum speed limit? Can a driver stop by the side (hard shoulder) and wait for an emergency or answer or talk on a mobile phone?

The recommended stopping distance when travelling at 30 km per hour is 12 metres. However, this distance doubles to 50 km per hour. It doubles again at 80 km per hour to 50 metres from the front vehicle. However, unless all drivers keep this distance from the front vehicles, it could result in pile-ups of vehicles as witnessed in European motorways.

Driving at 80 km per hour is also not the most fuel efficient speed. This speed reduces the vehicle �throughput� on the highway due to the increased stopping distances. Furthermore, the difference in time-saving when driving between 60 km per hour and 80 km per hour from Colombo to Matara or back maybe just 10 to 15 minutes. During the monsoon when the visibility is low due to heavy rain, the stopping distances increases again and safe driving speeds must be reduced.

It is reported that the annual death toll is over 2,300 due to accidents. Within this backdrop, the road traffic authority should carry out a public awareness campaign on �good driving practice� on the highway. This should be done before our hearing of the first victim on the highway.

Until such time, as drivers in Sri Lanka get accustomed to courteous driving at higher speeds, this minimum speeds should be reconsidered. Current statistics shows that the highest number of deaths occurs on better road surfaces (Negombo for example) where the speeds of vehicles tend to be around 50 km per hour and above.
When travelling at higher speed levels, one irresponsible speeding nut is enough on the road to kill many other innocent travellers. The tendency of drivers to fall asleep on the wheel even during the daytime is one of the main causes for many fatal accidents.

Killers on the roads
* Road accidents kill 1.3 million people annually
* Injure 20 to 50 million
* Road accidents killed more than 40,000 people in Sri Lanka between the years 1997 to 2007
* Within every ten minutes, one road accident occurs

By Carol Aloysius
Duminda aged eight, stepped out of his home early morning to buy a loaf of bread for the family breakfast. He returned home a day later in a sealed wooden box to keep mourners away from gazing at his badly mangled body - a result of being hit by a speeding bus.

Lalin aged 20, roared off on his new motorcycle weaving in and out of heavy traffic heedless to the dangers of speeding without wearing a helmet. Swerving to avoid an oncoming bus, the bike crashed onto a concrete wall and Lalin died on the spot due to internal bleeding.

Vindya aged 18, was crossing a busy road talking to her boy friend on her mobile phone when an on coming trishaw knocked her down. She somehow survived, but has to wear a pin on her leg for the rest of her life. She no longer can play tennis - a game she loves very much.

The similar cases are too numerous and mind boggling. Globally, road accidents rise to unprecedented levels and Sri Lanka is at top. The numbers are sure to rise as the new highway joins the Sri Lanka road systems today.
So what has caused this recent global phenomenon that takes away nearly 1.3 million people every year, injures 20 to 50 million and has killed more than 40,000 people within a 30-year period starting from 1997 to 2007 in Sri Lanka with an average of 2,000 a year - one road accident for every ten minute! How these road traffic accidents (RTA) occur? Who are the most likely victims and why? How can they be averted?

A panel of experts from the Health Ministry, insurance companies and the police met at the Health Education Bureau last week to launch a National Week of Road Traffic Accident Prevention and a Decade of Road Safety in Sri Lanka as well as to answer the questions posed at them on how to minimise road traffic accidents.
The speakers were unanimously agreed that speeding is the main cause for road traffic accidents. Dr. Ranjith Ellawala, consultant surgeon at the Colombo South Teaching Hospital went to the extent of showing some victims of road accidents being brought to the hospital, some already dead, others nearly dead while some others are alive with less severe injuries thanks to their wearing of seat belts or helmets when they met with the fatal accidents.

�Over 5,000 people visit the hospital for treatment each day. From them, more than thousand get admitted. Most admission is people with injuries due to road accidents,� he says. Because of the rise of road accident victims, they have set up a separate trauma unit to treat them. All theatres are kept open around the clock. �The ICUs are limited and overly so crowded, several patients have to be kept in one unit.�
Concerned with the mounting incidents of road traffic victims in the country, he did a survey with the help of other hospitals to gauge the people hospitalised due to road accidents. �We found the majority (35%) were motor cyclists, 13% three-wheeler drivers and 12% cyclists.� The cause for all these accidents was speeding vehicles. The slower the vehicle moves, the greater the chance of the person knocked down for surviving.
He illustrates what he said with the following statistics: If a car goes at 30 kilometres per hour, the victim has 90% survival chance. A car going at 45 kilometres per hour offers 50% survival chance to the victim. Nevertheless, a car speeding at 80 kilometres per hour offers no survival chance for its unfortunate victim, especially if the victim is a pedestrian crossing the road, someone standing in a bus, a motorcyclist without a helmet or a motorist without a seatbelt.

�Most victims die due to head injuries and bleeding well before they are brought to a hospital. Others die on the way because their hearts stop beating without sufficient air to their lungs due to wrong transporting postures they have been placed while transporting to the hospital from the place where they met with the accidents.�
The tragedy is, most victims are very young, mostly aged between 15 to 30 years. He said: �the bones of young persons are strong and do not easily break. The impact must really be very hard to injure their legs or spine. It can happen only if the relevant vehicle is speeding at 80 kilometres or over per an hour.�

Seneka Gamage who spoke on the topic �Road accidents are everybody�s responsibility�, said that since it was a social problem affecting the whole society, every department - education, environment, engineering to law enforcement should share the responsibility in preventing or minimising the risks. Highlighting the precautions to be taken in minimising and preventing road traffic accidents he said: �Wearing a helmet is not enough. It must be worn properly. Eighty-five percent of helmet wearers don�t wear their helmets properly. Every helmet wearer should strap them in correct way. The belt that goes below the neck should be worn properly to prevent it from falling. The belts cost a mere Rs 20/- and they are easily available.�

�Another mistake motorcyclists make is the wrong way they sit on their bikes. Don�t carry infants strapped on to your back,� he warned. He reiterated that pedestrians should cross only from the demarcated yellow strips. �Wait until the lights turn yellow with the word �walk� and then cross the road. Don�t dash across the road because you see your bus is coming and you need to get in it somehow. Wait till it stops at the halt to get in. In the same way, wait till it stops fully to get off. Don�t cross in front of the bus. Sometime, the driver may not see you.� He advised pedestrians to wear bright coloured clothes while walking on roads at night. �It�s no use of blaming the drivers. You have to protect yourself when using the roads.�

He advised motorists to obey the road rules. �Be very careful when turning as most accidents occur when turning to another road. At pedestrian crossings, stop 50 metres away from the zebra crossing and the traffic lights. Always wear your seat belts. Having an expensive car with airbags won�t help you if you don�t wear your seatbelt when your car collides with a speeding vehicle. See that your side mirrors are in place so you can see the vehicles from behind and on the side. Look out for the blind spot.�

Dr. P. G. Maheepla, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health said that the Health Education Ministry with the Ministry of Health had set up a website where a panel of medical officers answered questions on road injuries. �We have included this subject in our list of non communicable diseases which are also on the rise.�
Other interventions by the Health Ministry include a Trauma Secretariat affiliated to the accident service of the National Hospital. The sub committees of this service deal with training, pre hospital care, injury surveillance and trauma systems. He also said special emergency wards were being set up in all district hospitals to deal with road accident injuries.

Roads and Highways
With over three decades of engagement in providing consulting services in Roads and Highways, this sector is a core discipline area of RDC’s expertise. Today the company has a sound understanding of the development issues in the sector, and consequently is well positioned to harness opportunities. Key services provided in the sector include: feasibility studies preliminary and detailed engineering design construction supervision contract management rehabilitation and maintenance training and institutional strengthening
RDC facilitates delivery of services within various developmental and contractual contexts for improved planning and construction of Highways, Trunk Roads, Rural Access Roads, Feeder and Secondary Roads, Flyovers and Bridges.

RDC’s capability in the sector further comprise of expertise in traffic analysis, planning and inter-modal transport studies, social and environmental impact assessments, resettlement planning, inter alia as the specific project requires.

The service profile offered includes specialist areas such as resource planning, project management, review of management and institutional issues in association with planning and delivery of infrastructure development programmes.

RDC has carried out several projects in the Roads and Highways sector in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. Details of some key representative projects are provided below.

Matara-Kataragama Railway Line, Sri Lanka

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Key Data

The Matara-Kataragama Railway Line is a 114.5km-long Sri Lankan railway project. Currently under construction, the project will extend the coastal line from Matara to Kataragama. It is one of the pilot projects being built under the Mahinda Chinthnaya (which means Vision for the Future in Sri Lanka's Sinhala language), a multi-year policy programme launched by the Sri Lanka government with the aim of driving the nation's economic growth rate forward.
The Matara-Kataragama rail line will add to the existing 1,450km of national rail network. Estimated at $366m, the project is owned and will be operated by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Transport. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2015.
The new rail line aims to facilitate efficient and economic transport services in the region by promoting competition between rail and road transport. It will also benefit commuters travelling to remote areas of Matara while increasing the number of pilgrims visiting the sacred places in the Southern Province.
The project is being built in collaboration with China. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) to construct the line was signed between the Sri Lankan Government and China in 2006. The Chinese International Trust and Investment Company (CITIC) Group is constructing the entire project.
"The Matara-Kataragama rail line will add to the existing 1,450km of national rail network."
Project details

The project is being carried out in three stages. It involves the laying of double track in the entire route. However, only a single track will be constructed initially.
Stage 1 consists of a 27km-long railway route from Matara to Beliatta. Construction works on this section began in April 2010 and it is expected to open by the end of 2010.
The route will initially have four main stations at Kekanadura, Bambarenda, Wewurukannala and Beliatta. It will also have two sub-stations at Piladuwa and Weharahena. More stations will be added on this section in future depending on passenger demand.
As of July 2010, around 1,411 land plots were acquired from residents for the construction of the railway line between Matara and Beliatta. The Railway Department had to pay LKR710m as compensation to the people from whom the land was acquired. Civil and path clearing works were also carried out.
Stage II consists of a continuation of the railway track from Beliatta to Hambantota, which will be 48km-long. This line is scheduled to be complete by 2012.
Stage III will involve construction of a 39.5km-long rail line from Hambantota to Kataragama.
Infrastructure

The project will have all-new railway crossings developed over the main roads to avoid accidents.
The Matara-Beliatta section will have 12 bridges. A new 170m-long bridge across the Nilwala Ganga situated a mile away from the Matara Railway Station was completed in August 2008 after a two year construction period.
Constructed at a cost of LKR91m, it is the longest railway bridge seen by the country. Around 90% of the construction cost was borne by the CITIC.
Stage I will also feature bridges at Walawe Ganga, Kirindi Oya and Kirama Oya which are supposed to be expensive and time consuming. The route will have a 600m-long tunnel.
The travel time between Matara and Beliatta will be 20 minutes as the trains will travel at a speed of 120km/h.
Sri Lankan railways

Railways account for just 7% of the land transport in Sri Lanka with road transport accounting for 93%. Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, connects to the main cities of Kandy, Galle, Matara, Anuradhapura, Gampaha, Negombo, Kurunegala, Avissawella, Kalutara, Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Badulla, Gampola, Nawalapitiya, Matale, Vavuniya, Puttalam and Chilaw, located across nine provinces.
"The Matara-Beliatta section will have 12 bridges."
The first rail line was opened in April 1867 between Colombo and Kandy. Most of the railways were developed only during British rule as distribution networks for the plantations that grew products such as tea, rubber and coconut. This resulted in railways focussing more on the plantation areas and less on the population and service centres.
The lines to Jaffna, Kankesanturai and Mannar were destroyed by the LTTE group.
Some of the narrow gauge lines from Nanu Oys to Nuwara Eliya, Avissawella to Yatiyantota and Avissawella to Ratnapura and Opanayaka have been dismantled as they incurred financial losses.

Closed railway Stations and Railway lines in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka railway has a history of about 150 years. In August 1858, the first sod of the railway line was cut by Sir Henry ward, the governor of Sri Lanka, and the first train of the line operated from Colombo to Ambepussa on December 27, 1864.
Initially, the railway system progressed from the capitol of the country and established in some major cities covering all the provinces of Sri Lanka. End of the year 1925, Sri Lanka railway had a total length of network rail road about 1550 km. Development of this railway network contributed to the country's economic growth and met the social aspirations of the Sri Lanka people that Providing a invaluable service to the public transport and freight transport of the country. .After 1938-40 the railway came in to trouble, some branch of the railway network closed down because of financial losses cause of the world war, improper administration of the railways, and due to the people chose the road transport than the railway transport.
I quote a paragraph of article from the Book "Rail 2000" edited by Mr Priyal De Silva who was the General Manager Sri Lanka railways.
“”As a railway engineer, who has served in most part of the network, I acquire a great emotional feeling when I see the old traces bear embankments, embankments half sliced off for other development work, or unauthorized settlements which are coming up like mushrooms . The old arch culverts and bridges in these traces should remain as archaeological monuments for future generation to observe that hard manual work what their forefathers have carried out.””
This is the list for anyone interested in Sri Lanka‘s abandoned railway branches lines and former railway stations,
Lost railway lines/branches in Sri Lanka

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...„RECESSION HAS AFFECTED TOURISM INDUSTRY GLOBALLY. WHAT MEASURES CAN BE TAKEN BY UK HOTELS?‟ “CASE STUDY: MARRIOTT GROUP OF HOTEL‟S EFFORT TO ATTRACT MEDICAL TOURISTS” RAMAMOORTHY PANDIAN STUDENT ID: 09004669 DISSERTATION SUPERVISOR THOMAS REEVES SUBMITTED IN PART FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENT FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION UNIVERSITY OF WALES INSTITUTE, CARDIFF FEB 2010 1 ACKNOWLEDGEMENT First and foremost, I would like to thank my supervisor Thomas Reeves for his valuable professional advice and guidance as well as for rendering his kindness, endless patience and continuous encouragement towards my dissertation. I would like to thank interviewees in the Marriott Group of hotels and its branches, without which this study could not have been reached its conclusion. A handful of thanks to all the lecturers of my concern for their teaching, without them, I can‟t learn so much knowledge. This dissertation could not have been completed without continuous support, encouragement, and caring of all my friends and my family members. I would wish them many a thanks too. Finally, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to those who provided me with great support and encouragement during my studies in UK. Thanks again to all of them. 2 ABSTRACT The aim is to find out the most possible means that recession would affect the tourism industry globally and also to pay attention towards the various measures taken over...

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