ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s private bus service will be unable to function at normal levels until a solution for the fuel crisis is proposed, Sri Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (SLPOA) Chairman Gemunu Wijeratne said.

“Even today fewer than 10 per cent of buses are running. Drivers are on strike because they have no fuel,” said Wijeratne, speaking to EconomyNext on Monday (27)

Sri Lanka is currently going through an indefinite interruption of fuel supply. Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera has said foreign banks are refusing to confirm letters of credit issued by Sri Lanka state banks, and oil suppliers are also rejecting them due to the country’s inability to pay in dollars.

Foreign banks refuse to confirm Sri Lanka state bank letters of credit: Minister

Fuel prices were also raised on Sunday (26), and the island’s private bus owners have requested the annual price revision for bus fares to take place to cover costs due to the loss of income from the reduction of passengers due to the closure of schools and public offices.

Sri Lanka bus operators want tariff hike to account for central bank actions

Wijenayake said on Thursday (23) that 75 per cent of buses were in operation, and that 100 per cent operations would resume when schools and government offices were opened, but the fuel crisis has put a dent in those plans.

Sri Lanka has been depending on Indian credit lines for fuel, and Wijesekara stated that the state run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) will need the help of the Treasury for repayments.

The fuel crisis has left Sri Lanka’s roads bare, with even the most populated roads looking like ghost towns. Drivers line up for days in fuel queues, and it has become common to see abandoned vehicles waiting in line for fuel that, according to authorities, is simply not available.

“Buses are almost empty in the afternoons, so drivers are waiting longer at stops,” said Wijenayake.

However, the lack of buses means peak hours are usually jam packed and uncomfortable for passengers.

“We don’t trust the government at all. We have been waiting here for three days, because even if they say that there is no fuel, we will get a message that there is,” said one irate driver waiting in line – a sentiment echoed by many drivers. (Colombo/Jun27/2022)