National Transport Policy

Transport Policy for Sri Lanka – A National Need

The need for a national policy is mandatory in each development goal. Transportation is a key development facilitator and indicator too, hence the need of the policy has been recognized globally. The following identifies the principal needs of developing a national policy for transport, but not limited to.

This whitepaper suggests the components of a framework to optimize the transportation needs of the country, in forming a National Policy for Transport.

Each of the components (subsection) needs to be detailed on its need, costs, timelines, advantages, and benefits to the country and society. All these components shall be developed as separate strategic moves upon due consideration under the proposed National Policy of Transport. 

Sri Lanka – Status quo

Transport is a major barrier to development in the country and here are some of the key figures, available publicly.

Colombo gets over half a million vehicles a day in bringing two million people to the city. (Car & Jeep 200,000, Vans 60,00, Motorcycles 120,000, Tuk-tuk 120,000, public transport 30,000 and goods transport trucks 40,000).  The minimal contribution of public transportation modes creates a huge negative imbalance in urban mobility.

It has been estimated the cost of congestion exceeds a billion rupees a day. Furthermore, the cost of the congestion now exceeds the cost of the 30-year war it has been said.

Over 60% of the Colombo air pollution (GHG and PM2.5) has been contributed by the road transportation sector. Unfortunately, emission standards are way outdated and unreliable. Sad to note the public transport has not shown any improvement over the decades.

National Policy of Transport – FRAMEWORK

It has been mentioned a draft policy has been submitted to the cabinet late 2019. The document with NTC in this regard doesn’t include the needy components of a policy.

We Propose following principal areas Shall be considered in a national Policy With its Plans, Strategy, Enactment, Timelines, and the KPI, but not limited to.

Revision of bus route number system

The need arises at large with the wake of multimodal transport systems. The urban route number system need a change in facilitating improved public transport and also meet with the cost concerns of both private and government operators.

Time tables also need to in consideration along with this measure.

Justification of this need shall be extensively revived, based on design thinking principles in consideration with all stakeholder organizations.

BRT  (Bus Rapid Transit)

This has been tested for years on Galle road and Parliament road, but not with much progress. However, this is a major success in most cities and can be deployed within the existing framework, except for a couple of bottlenecks in three lane roads.

Electric Low Floor BRT

An extension of the above. The major barrier is the cost of new busses vs the existing ticket prices.  Global climate change grants available to facilitate capital costs.

There was a cabinet approved tender floated (2018) for the purchase of 15 electric buses, but not been materialized. 

Articulated / Bi articulated / Duel Deck buses

SLTB and even private operators are facing a major driver shortage. Even making the fleet bigger will not have much of a help in resolving transport issues. 

The problem will be even bigger in the future. Having articulated and/or bi-articulated buses will resolve the problem in urban depots and also will reduce the fuel expenditure. 

However, having bi-articulated buses will be needing permanent BRT systems and infrastructure.

Electric Low floor Buses (Non-BRT)

More buses shall be deployed on the routs but the time factor, energy conservation, faster dispatch, etc will be barriers o sustainability.

Electric Buses in operation – India

Connected and monitored transport – Cloud-based

It is a must to have all moods of transport get connected (GPS enabled) and monitored via an app. Furthermore, this will enable driver and fleet monitoring with other utilization, efficiency, and productivity measures in managing via a centralized dashboard.

This will pave the way for cost reduction and optimized utilization for better revenue as well. 

There are enough modelling in the global level and the architecture can be developed locally.

Automated fleet management (FMS) for SLTB 

This is a key fleet management requirement with a view of reducing the maintenance and operational costs with better data from CPK (Cost per KKilometer), TCO (Total cost of operations per KM), etc in reducing costs yet improving utilization and productivity.

Prevention is the key, and always better than the cure. A FMS will be a great tool to ensure prevention measures in minimizing the OPEX.

Defensive usage for SLTB fleet

Fleet maintenance costs are rising. The rate of accidents is rising.  Driver error has been identified as the root cause of almost all collisions. Furthermore poor attention on defensive driving is causing many other issues in the public transportation sector under SLTB.

  • Reduced fuel bill
  • Reduced fleet maintenance, tire, and battery costs
  • Reduced incidents and accidents
  • Reduced downtime

The strategy can be enforced on private operations as well. A pilot project shall be deployed over one or a few depots/companies with control, monitoring, and evaluation measures.

Reserved routes for one (or two) operator

A particular road can be reserved for one private operator and SLTB. These to be run on a shared and permanent time table. This will eliminate the costly competition, waiting, speeding, not adhering to timing, and even increase owner profitability. 

No route permits shall be issued to individuals under this scheme in operation. 

Route permits shall only be issued for the companies who operate 10 or more busses, and routes allocated to such companies with the timetable (Shared with SLTB).

Electrifying selected train lines

Proposals and projects are underway, especially on Kelani Valley and Southern lines. However, no firm action plan in place although there are several agencies work on.


This has been a controversy during the previous term. Our opinion has been mentioned here. 

Common ticketing system for all

The proposed/tendered railway ticketing system is not in line with the President’s policy framework “Sawbhagyaye Dakma” which specifies a “paperless” “one for all” ticket system.

Skills development

There are induction programs are being conducted by NTC and SLTB as well. This may include a training component as well prior deploying to operations. However no information on CPD (Continuous Professional Development) routine training and monitoring measures. 

The shortage of drivers and technical staff too might be resolved with these measures.

Driving license procedures

It is highly advisable the ministry can consider a measure to make it mandatory to all commercial vehicle drivers including Three wheelers and small trucks to have a heavy vehicle driving license.

Also to limit the age limit of three-wheeler drivers to a minimum of 40 to ensure the county’s youth to be occupied and productive towards the development of the country.

Cycle paths to the city

This is a major requirement in reducing congestion, fuel import bill, environmental pollution and even the countries health bill. The enactment need to be in connecting a few government institutions including Ministry Of Transport, Ministry of Highways and UDA as well.

Micro-mobility is a critical component in redefining the new age mobility. We have developed a comprehensive plan which need to be incorporated in the national transport plan.  Click the link below.

Inland water transport

This shall be under the Ministry of Transport.  This will be greatly successful with proper interconnections with other modes of transport, in easing up the congestion.

Seamless interchanges / Multimodal transport

A must need in moving towards sustainable mobility infrastructure. This is all about connecting the Railways, Bus terminals, ferry stations, Car/Cycle parks, etc.

Emission control measures

It is noted the country is not aligning with the global or even regional standards. It is a must to review the current system and establish measures to curb climate change.

Environmental policy

It is a must NTC / SLTB having an environmental policy documented in consideration with the reduction of carbon footprint and global warming.

About us

Mobility Alliance provides mobility solutions and process re-engineering on transportation for public/private organizations applying cutting edge technology and systems. 

We strive to Minimize the total cost of ownership (TCO) and maximize operational excellence delivering improved bottom lines and social values to our patrons and the society.


A framework in redefining the scope of the Ministry of Transport for 2020 and beyond. The components measured herein are based on public need analysis and published studies.

© Mobility Alliance – August 2020


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