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Govt. negotiating with private bus owners to give train ticket holders free rides

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The Government is currently negotiating with private bus owner associations to allow train season ticket holders to ride for free, Deputy Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Ashoka Abeysinghe said yesterday. 

“We will try to develop a mechanism to pay them for it later,” he said. 

State bus service Sri Lanka Transport Board buses are already allowing season ticket holders to travel without paying. 

Abeysinghe also stated that the Government has requested all private buses to run as an action taken to reduce inconvenience occurred to the public. “Although there are 21,000 private buses that run in the country, only about 15,000 buses run each day. We have asked all 21,000 buses to be put on the roads for transportation, even the buses which do not hold route permits to be used in order to reduce effects of the strike,” he elaborated.

He added that he would inform all Passenger Transport Associations about the new mechanism set in place to allow all private buses to run even without permits. He also said that if the strike continues, the Government will have no choice but to take the optional action of recruiting newly trained engine drivers. These actions have been taken with the objective of reducing the inconvenience candidates taking the GCE A/L examinations this year and other State workers will have to undergo.

As a long-term initiative, the Deputy Minister said that they have decided to train new engine drivers as a precaution against future inconveniences of the Railway Department, and that the trained drivers will be hired within six months. 

“There are 1,400,000 State workers in this country, and everyday almost 500,000 of them use the train to travel in and out of Colombo. Therefore, trains run around the country about 375 times per day,” Abeysinghe stated, stressing on the fact that the reason behind the strike is unfair and that due to their unjust actions, it was the public, including the 500,000 State workers, who were getting harassed.  

The strike was launched yesterday by several trade unions from 3 p.m. against the Cabinet decision suspending an earlier decision to increase wages of railway workers to correct a salary anomaly. 

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