In the light of the deadly ‘coronavirus’ and other such potential viruses stubbornly forcing a continued stay on the planet, using the medium of human beings for their multiplication, it has become compulsory to find long-term solutions to mitigate the problem of transport of office workers and schoolchildren in large numbers causing ‘community transmission’.
Towards this end, I wish to suggest the following simple, cost saving mitigating steps for implementation as practically as possible, after explaining to and convincing the respective trade unions of the dire long-term need for a ‘paradigm shift’ in our lifestyles.
Deploy them in their respective offices located closest to their residences within the districts. The transfer policies have to be duly amended. This step will reduce inter-district travel and make identification and monitoring easier in the long run. The employees also will save time, energy and money while getting the opportunity to engage in better family life and other part-time earning activities.
Introduce flexi-hours for both public and private sector workers. This step, while reducing rush hour traffic, ‘over-loading’ and traffic congestion will also help in better time management.
Make arrangements for ‘Working from Home’ by embracing technology and giving targets/ assignments. This step will improve productivity of staff and reduce over-loading and traffic congestion.
Make train/bus season tickets available online or for purchase at designated supermarkets/shops as in other countries so that the workload and the health risk of the conductor/ticket collector can be drastically reduced. In many countries the issue of tickets is handled by the driver him/herself.
Factories/public/private sector institutions can be induced with concessions to provide van/bus transport to their employees wherever possible.
When the above steps are implemented, the transport sector, with their existing moveable assets and rolling stock, would be in a position to deliver a satisfactory service to the commuters.
The elusive policy requirement to send children to schools in their locality has to be implemented forthwith. This measure will surely reduce traffic congestion on the main roads. The present mythical practice of sending children in the Western Province to Colombo schools has to be stopped as it has become a major facilitator of traffic congestion on Colombo roads. As a result, the school bus/van service can be confined to the locality and the need for parents to drop their children at school before leaving to office will also become redundant. The parents/children will face lesser travelling risks and save travelling time and money which can be spent on studies, homework and extra-curricular activities.
The schools also should adjust their opening times in keeping with the flexi-office hours of the public/private sector in the areas.
Let us avail of the blessings in disguise that have come to our doorstep, in the wake of the ‘corona pandemic’. I am confident in the President who possesses the much required political and professional will to implement these hitherto elusive but important measures which need to be implemented to improve our security, productivity and discipline towards a prosperous Sri Lanka.