Improving public transportation : Micro Cars to build city buses, luxury coaches | Sunday Observer

Improving public transportation : Micro Cars to build city buses, luxury coaches

Micro Cars Limited Chairman Dr. Lawrence Perera with officials of Higer   Bus Company Korea at a media briefing in Colombo.
Micro Cars Limited Chairman Dr. Lawrence Perera with officials of Higer Bus Company Korea at a media briefing in Colombo.

Micro cars Limited will build state-of-the-art city buses, luxury coaches, commercial vehicles and DMU’s meeting EU standards, company sources said.

The environment-friendly, commuter safety and comfort will open a new chapter in public transport.

Sri Lanka has a history of building motor coaches during the 1950s where passenger coaches were locally built on imported chassis. Similarly, trucks (lorry bodies) were also locally built during the same period.

This industry (Bus/Lorry Body building) reached its peak in the 1960s to the late 70s and gradually declined after 1977 when the open economic policy of the then government came into play, and opened up a new trend of importing truck chassis buses, making Sri Lanka a dumping yard for substandard vehicles.

SLTB had bus body building facilities and workshops in almost all its regions, employing thousands of people. The largest factories were located at Werahera and Ekala in the Colombo Southern and Northern regions as they had the largest bus fleets.

At its peak this industry provided direct employment to approximately 50,000 people, While the industry was forward and backward integrated providing employment to over 200,000 people.

In the mid 1980s the SLTB’s own local bus body building facilities shifted to primarily Indian purchases in importing complete built form, while a couple of small local companies tactically shifting from building to the import of buses, over the next decade killing the half a century old local industry.

“Though we had a rich industry employing thousands of local people after Independence, today it is very unfortunate that our bus commuters still travel in buses crudely built on unsafe truck chassis using over a half-century-old truck technology. These so-called buses (truck buses) and the heavily used trucks are grossly unsafe for public passenger transport as there are no modern safety standards and as a result the number of road accidents is on the rise,” a company official said.

“These buses / trucks with age-old technology is also major cause of environmental pollution as they are built with engines that are not in line with the latest global emission standards. As we experienced a couple of months back, Sri Lanka’s air quality has significantly depleted and now in the near danger / danger zones resulting in an increase in respiratory illnesses in many people, young and aged, which adversely effects our national health bill as well. As a small island we are facing such issues due to the ad hoc shortsighted legislative policies adopted in the past,” he said.

The locally built new buses will be equipped with Euro IV Environment-friendly engines, ABS brakes, air suspension, air conditioning, emission reduction technology, incorporation of smart technology Industry 4.0, GPS and automatic fare collection system, e ticketing system to ensure comfort, safety courtesy and promptness of service. Durability will be the key focus with low maintenance costs to minimise downtime thus increasing operator profitability and in return providing efficient service to the commuters and end users.

As a country such modern eco-friendly and safe medium of transportation was long overdue to Sri Lankan roads and can be owned by the SLTB and private operators in the near future.

Having one of the most valuable railway infrastructures built 150 years ago, the Sri Lanka Railways could take immediate steps to provide comfortable and convenient travel to the masses for rural-urban connectivity.

In 2004, Micro Cars Ltd designed the concept of Lanka Econo Rail to be manufactured in Sri Lanka at a very economical cost which was approved by the Cabinet in 2004 but could not be taken forward due to bureaucracy.

The system is called ‘Diesel/ electric Multiple Unit’ (DMU), where every three carriages is powered with medium horse power engines. These DMU’s are more economical in terms of cost of production and maintenance when compared to importation of the same or the conventional locomotives.

These projects are expected to create over 2,200 direct employment opportunities and well over 3,500 indirect employment opportunities in the skilled fields of automotive and rolling stock engineering / designing, IT, accounting, management / administration and much needed vocational skills training for youth. There will be more jobs generated over time as the industry is heavily backward integrated.

Today, the new government has outlined a clear desire and vision to rejuvenate and revive the once rich dormant industries and resurrect back to its old glory while nurturing the local economy to generate quality employment opportunities, foster and enrich local industries, facilitating the transfer of new technologies.