Wasting nearly 5 hours on the road is (was) a part of my daily routine. I’m a commuter who travel daily from Katunayake to Colombo. Daily. For 5 years I have continued this routine, and let me tell you, spending 5 hours on the road on a daily basis is not a joy. It was all the same for five years, until last week. But things have changed now. With the highway I can travel to Katunayakae from Peliyagoda within 15 minutes is 27+KMs and in 30 minutes from Peliyagoda to Pettah which is 7 KMs. But wait. I am not complaining. I still save more than 2 hours daily, which I used to spend on traveling.
Anyway, this post is not about my time or traveling. This is about one part of the society that is majorly affected by the Highway buses in Katunayake, but everyone ignored. Including Media,Government as well as the people!
For the past 3 years or so I always traveled in normal intercity AC bus service, which operates between Katunayake and Colombo. To be honest, that bus service was a Mafia; especially for Foreign travelers. Let me tell you why. National Transport Board had approved a bus fair of 100 rupees in an AC bus that operates between Katunayake and Colombo. But they never took 100 from foreigners. The minimum amount they charged from a foreign passenger was 200 rupees, and that was excluding baggage.They charged Rs 100 each for baggage. So yeah. As I said it was a Mafia!
But that’s not the interesting part. The distance from Colombo to Katunayake is less than 35 kilometers. These guys took more than two hours to travel this distance! Always! Why? Because even though it’s an intercity bus, they load passengers up to foot-board. And yes it’s illegal. Half the time police stop them, and as usual, they bribe the police and get away. This has happened consecutively for the last 3 years.
And now Highway buses are here, which are operated by the Government. Let’s do a comparison:
Highway Bus Intercity AC bus
Duration – Less than 1 hour More than 2 hours
Charge – Rs 130 Rs 100
Condition Super luxury Old Rosa AC buses.
Do the math. Which one you would go in?
Yes, now my daily routine has changed to highway buses. But this is not only about me. Almost 90% of the people who used to travel by old AC buses have now switched to highway buses. This fact puts the private bus guys in trouble. Recently, I went in normal AC bus because I wanted to get down from Wattala (which i can’t do using a highway bus). The Rosa bus had only 9 people! The bus driver was cursing everyone from the Chinese laborers who were involved in the Highway construction to Minister of Transportation to Mahinda Rajapaksha.
In conclusion, Katunayake-Colombo normal AC bus owners are in an economic crisis now due to the new highway buses, and I don’t see anyway they are going to find a solution to that.
Yet, after what they have done in the past, I can’t decide whether to be happy or sad!