, COLOMBO, Sep 27 – Sri Lanka is continuing discussions with China to purchase 3,000 new buses despite protests by private bus operators in the country, a minister said on Thursday.
Minister of Transport Kumar Welgama told Xinhua that discussions are continuing with Chinese companies but a final decision has not yet been reached.
“We are looking at purchasing these buses but we are still having discussions,” the minister said.
The Sri Lankan government announced last week that it hoped to import buses from China to meet the demand in the public transport sector.
However the announcement was greeted with stiff opposition from the private transport sector which threatened to strike if the government goes ahead with moves to purchase 3,000 buses from China.
Welgama said the state transport board has around 5,000 buses, of which some 3,500 are over 15 years old and need to be replaced.
As a result, he said the government was looking at importing 3,000 buses from China as those buses are also suitable for Sri Lankan road conditions.
President of the Private Bus Association Gemunu Wijeyratne earlier threatened to launch a strike if the government goes ahead with the deal, saying it will have an impact on private bus operations in the country.
Wijeyratne alleged that the move to purchase new buses is an attempt by the government to gain control over passenger bus operations in the country.
Private bus operators have a virtual monopoly over passenger bus operations in the country as there are more private buses than state owned passenger buses.