Sri Lanka


  • A ruling of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka mandated that all customers of bus public transport services should receive a printed ticket for the fare paid, and that a record of the transaction be kept.
  • The National Transport Commission (NTC) has led the deployment of Electronic Ticket Machines (ETMs) in Sri Lanka
  • NTC developed specifications for ETMs, tested and provided type approval to compliant products offered by the supplier market
  • NTC has led the process of developing route-specific Fare Tables, which provide the key reference data for the ETMs
  • It is the responsibility of the Operators to purchase and operate the ETMs
  • Suitable handheld ETMs retail for about LKR 28,000 (US$250) for a standard model, and LKR 38,500 (c. US$350) for GPRS-enabled models
  • There are currently about 12,000 units in use, covering a little over half the 19,000 private bus operators, and a quarter of the 4,000 buses of the public operator SLTB. The requirement is to achieve 100% coverage.
  • Implementation has been successful, although there are transitional issues such as sufficiency of coverage of supplier's maintenance network, training of users, and longevity of components.
  • Advanced equipment has been successfully deployed across an industry of independent Operators that have minimal organization structure, and to conductors of varying skill and educational levels, who are independently engaged by the Owners.

Scope of the Case Study

The focus of the Case Study is the private bus sector, comprising c. 19,000 buses on about 2,400 routes. This sector consists of vehicles that are individually owned, with little concentration of ownership or organization. While ETMs are also being deployed in state-owned SLTB, this is a conventional style of implementation and is not the focus of this study.

Institutional Framework

Sri Lanka consists of 8 Provinces.

Regulation of road passenger transport is carried out at two levels:

  • The National Transport Commission (NTC) regulates inter-provincial services
  • Provinces regulate intra-provincial services. Each Province has a Provincial Road Passenger Transport Authority (PRPTA).

There are approximately 400 inter-provincial routes, on which about 4,000 buses are operating.

There are approximately 2,400 provincial routes, on which about 19,000 buses are operating.

The NTC was established in 1991 by an Act of Government (NTC Act 37 of 1991) that mandates it with extensive roles in the regulation, quality and development of the road passenger transport sector.

Public Transport in Sri Lanka is operated in accordance with the National Transport Policy, most recently updated in 2008. The Policy identifies the mandated functions of NTC as:

a)    to monitor the availability of omnibus services of an acceptable quality to meet the passenger transport needs of the public and to determine the minimum levels at which such services shall be maintained;

b)   to specify the conditions subject to which an Authorized Person may issue or renew a passenger service permit or other authority authorizing the use of an omnibus for the carriage of passengers at separate fares;

c)    to monitor and enforce subject to the provisions of any written law, the compliance by permit holders with the conditions of passenger service permits issued to them under this Act or by Authorized Persons;

d)   to prescribe the form in which passenger service permits may be issued by an Authorized Person;

e)    to determined the rates to be charged for the issue or renewal of passenger service permits by an Authorized Person;

f)     to specify the documents relating to vehicle fitness, passenger carrying capacity and driver fitness and other evidence that shall be produced to an Authorized Person by an applicant for a passenger service permit;

g)    to require holders of passenger service permits issued by an Authorized Person to furnish to the Commission such returns and information as may be necessary for the Commission to exercise and discharge its powers and functions under this Act;

h)   to liaise with Government Departments, institutions and Authorized Persons, in respect of omnibus services required by such Departments, and Institutions including-

(i) carriage of a mail; and

(ii) the provision of school services on concessionary rates, for schoolchildren and for students of Universities, Technical Institutions and other similar Institution.

i)     to grant passenger service permits for omnibus services in the specified area;

j)     to ensure the provision of omnibus services on un-remunerative routes, by entering, after the consideration of competing bids, into contracts with persons for the provision of those services and where necessary, providing financial support to persons providing such services and to specify the fares that may be charged by such persons having regard to the nature of the services provided;

k)    to enter into agreements with any person for the provision of interprovincial omnibus services and to issue passenger carriage permits in respect thereof;

l)     to provide managerial expertise and assistance to Authorized Persons, and any other assistance or advise that may be required by Authorized Persons for the proper discharge of their functions relating to the provision of omnibus services;

m)  to arrange for the carriage of goods on omnibuses.

Operator Structure

The total public bus supply in Sri Lanka is approximately 23,000 vehicles, of which about 4,000 are operated by state-owned SLTB, and about 19,000 by private operators. (Note: the similarly to the number of buses on inter-provincial and provincial routes is coincidental) 

Overview of Operator Structure

The Bus Passenger Transport industry consists of the following main Stakeholders:

  • SLTB, which is a state-owned large, formal bus operating Company
  • Private Bus Operators who are individual Owners of vehicles, and which operate independently. While they may be members of Unions or Associations, this is not relevant to their means of organization for business or operational purposes.
  • Private Bus Companies whose Shareholders are individual Owners, and which use buses provided by Owners.  This sector is currently in development, in part supported by pilot projects by NTC, and is estimated to account for less than 5% of the private buses.
  • Associations of bus Owners, which play a representative role for the interests of the Owners, but to date do not have any active role in the business or operations of their members.

Currently there are no private formal bus companies owning their own vehicles, which provide fixed-route bus services.


SLTB is an extensive island-wide company that operates all classes of bus services (urban, inter-provincial, local, rural, …). It has undergone many changes and reforms, which are adequately documented in the literature. The National Transport Policy describes its functions as:

a)     To provide an efficient passenger service by bus throughout the country, while competing with the private sector under regulated market conditions.

b)    To provide bus services for services of a socially necessary service for which specific subsides are provided by the regulator

c)     To become the market leader in the provision of qualitative bus transport services by improving in reliability and safety, customer care.

d)    To maintain designated bus terminals and to improve the services at such terminals for passenger benefit.

e)     To become financially efficient and independent to compete with private sector in the long term.

f)     To be available for deployment in emergency situations.

The Private Bus Sector

The private bus sector is mostly provided by individual Operators, each of which own one or more buses. The majority are single vehicle owners, although some may own multiple units, the maximum owned by an individual appears to be about 35. 

Bus Operators join Associations on a voluntary basis, there is no requirement forcing them to do so.

The “Operators” are the vehicle Owners, and they are the Permit holders.

Operators engage drivers and conductors by direct arrangement. Two basic arrangements occur:

  • The Operator employs the driver and the conductor on a wage, and they are expected to hand over all of the takings to the Operator
  • The Operator agrees a daily charge for the vehicle, the driver/conductor keep the takings after paying the daily charge

The staff turnover in the sector is high. First, turnover in the profession is high, not least because the jobs of driver and conductor have low social recognition. Second, drivers and conductors tend to move on from their Operator, citing problems of conditions and treatment by the Operators. An NTC study of the sector in 2010 indicated that average stay with an Owner is 3-6 months.

Private Bus Companies

There are some private bus companies, but this is estimated to account for not more than 5% of the industry at present. NTC has supported the establishment of 5 companies through a pilot project, which is ongoing.

These companies have typically 70-130 vehicles, associated with 3-10 routes. These pilot companies are mostly or entirely operating inter-provincial routes. The vehicles are owned by individual Owners, and they are also Shareholders of the Bus Companies. These Bus companies currently do not own any vehicles.

Basis of Service/Route Award 

The Bus Passenger Transport consists of the following main service sectors:

  • Inter-Provincial routes, which are regulated by NTC, and comprise about 4,000 vehicles operating on about 400 routes of varying strengths
  • Urban routes, particularly in Colombo metropolitan area, which are locally regulated
  • Provincial routes of varying lengths and strengths, which are regulated by the PRPTAs. Including the urban routes, this is about 19,000 vehicles operating on about 2,400 routes

In addition to the above, there is very extensive provision of schools and employee transport, and of tours and private hire services.

Routes are developed by NTC or the Provinces (or exist historically and are now regulated by them). Permits to operate on the route are issued on application.

For the private bus sector, Permits are issued on the basis of one permit per bus. Permits have been issued by application. A new system is under consideration in which Operators may bid for a ‘positive concession’ for routes that are likely to generate surpluses.

Permits or Contracts

The Permit stipulates various conditions, including:

  • Route to be taken, terminal arrangements
  • Tariffs to be charged
  • Requirement to have and to use a ticket issuing machine
  • Compliance with published Vehicle specifications and equipment, for the class of service operated
  • Driver/conductor licence/ID
  • Dress and behaviour standards of drivers and conductors
  • Requirement to facilitate inspections by authorized staff

NTC and the PRPTAs monitor compliance with the Permit conditions. Violations of Permit conditions lead to sanctions, including termination of Permits.

Allocation of Revenue and Cost Risks 

For the Private Operator sector (83% of the sector in terms of fleet size), all Revenue and Cost risks rest with the Operators.

This approach is possible due to mechanisms for the tariff calculation and periodic review, which allows the tariffs to be adjusted in line with reasonable input cost increases, while protecting against excessive surplus or exploitation of the customers.

For a small number of rural services, a modest level of subsidy support is available. The Revenue and Cost risks remain with the Operators. 

SLTB receives subsidy support, which mitigates their Revenue and Cost risk.

The National Transport Policy contains the following statement

“3.5.8 Transport Service Pricing

In the case of public transport, the Government will intervene by regulating fares. The respective national regulatory authority will periodically determine viable fare levels, which is the fare level that will enable an operator to recover his return on investment at standard levels of inputs and efficiency. The respective national regulator on considering the affordability and external impacts of levying such viable fare will if so needed determine a regulated fare in consultation with the Ministry of Transport & the Treasury. Where the regulated fare is set lower than the viable fare, the shortfall will be provided to the operator as a compensative payment by the Government.

If so required additional compensatory payments will be offered to operators of Socially Obligatory Services such as rural un-remunerative services and school services where special concessions are provided to users or minimum service levels are required. 

Moreover, differential fares for modes of transport may be set in order to achieve modal shifts that are desirable for economic, social or environmental reasons.”

Financial Flows within the System 

There are three types of financial flow within the system:

1) Payment of Permit fees to the regulator

2) Subsidy support to SLTB, which is independent of the ticketing system

3) Subsidy support for transport services in rural areas. This is very modest in scale.

There are no revenue flows directly related to the ticketing systems.

Tariff Setting Mechanism

Tariffs are established in accordance with a formal policy in which the basis for the tariff is specified. A technical mechanism has been developed to determine the appropriate tariff level.[1]

Tariffs are reviewed annually in accordance with the national policy and the specific calculation method. A Committee of the NTC, the PRPTAs, SLTB and the private bus owners meets ahead of the tariff adjustment. 

NTC prepares the Fare Tables for the inter-provincial routes. The Fare Tables for the intra-provincial routes are the responsibility of the PRPTAs, although NTC has provided assistance to the PRPTAs to complete this work.

The Fare Table for each route is done in the following way:

  • The route is measured jointly by NTA, PRPTA and SLTB
  • The Sections are identified, taking account of hill country sections
  • A full listing of the Route is prepared
  • Anomalies between NTC and Provincial fares are identified and rectified
  • A reconciled Fare Table is produced

Anomalies exist between the NTC and PRPTA tariffs, usually for specific Sections, or in some cases the local step-on fare is LKR 9 v. LKR 6 on the NTC tariff scale. These are rectified to produce a single Fare Table for the route, and to ensure that the tariffs on all routes across the Section(s) are consistent.

NTC has led this work. To date, all routes in Western, Central and Southern Provinces have been completed and the Fare Tables rectified. Not surprisingly, this has taken considerable time as the three Provinces have c. 780, 700 and 360 routes respectively. 

Work continues with the other Provinces, the pace being dependent on developing capacity of the PRPTA officers. NTC’s objective is to complete the work on a Province-by-Province basis, and then hand the process over to the PRPTA concerned. 

All Fare Tables are computerized. This facilitates their direct input to the Electronic Ticket Machines.

Tariff Structure and Fare Product Range

Tariffs are based on the following core principles:

  • There is a formula-based calculation for setting the tariffs, which includes a recognition of the full costs of bus operations
  • Tariffs are revised annually in accordance with the policy and the formula
  • The basic tariff unit is the “Section”.
  • The normal Section is 2 kilometres. In hill country, the section is 1.7 km, reflecting the higher fuel consumption and increased cost
  • A national tariff table is established showing the standard tariff for 1, 2, 3, etc. Sections.
  • At present, the first Section tariff (i.e. step-on charge) is LKR 6, initial sections are LKR 3 per section, tapering to LKR 2 per section.
  • Differential tariffs are applied by vehicle quality class. There are four categories:
    • Normal – Standard tariff
    • Semi-lux – 1.5 times standard tariff
    • Lux – 2 time standard tariff
    • Super Lux – 3 times standard tariff
    • A half-tariff is available to children under the age of 12
    • There is currently no discount applicable to other categories such as senior, disabled, schoolchildren over 12, students, etc.
    • An individual Fare Table is derived for each route, based on the national tariff schedule, and reflecting the Sections applicable to the route

Most intra-provincial services are in the Normal category.

The higher categories usually have limited stopping places, and this is specified in the Fare Table for the route, which is attached to the Permit.

Currently there are not time-based fare products (e.g. day, week, month).

Extent of Integration and Common Ticketing

Currently there is no integration of tariffs across routes.

Currently there is no common ticketing.

There is an emerging interest in the use of 3rd party issued contactless smart cards – e.g. by insurance companies, banks. Current concepts are based on stored value cards that are used to pay for tickets in lieu of cash, with paper tickets still being issued from the ETMs.

Management and Oversight of Fare Collection, and allocation of Responsibilities


The primary responsibility for Fare Collection rests entirely with the Operator. The Operator is responsible for:

  • Purchase appropriate ticket issuing equipment, which is required to be an Electronic Ticket Machine (ETM) compliant with NTC specifications
  • Ensure that there is a functioning ETM when the vehicle is in service
  • Issuing printed tickets to all passengers
  • Collecting the due revenue
  • Managing the revenue
  • Protecting the revenue

NTC’s responsibilities reflect the public interest, and consist of:

  • Developing specifications for ETMs, and accrediting suitable products
  • Monitoring that all buses operating permitted services are equipped with an ETM
  • Monitoring that tickets are issued to all passengers, and that tickets are issued for the correct fare for the journey travelled

Bus Companies have no direct responsibilities for fare collection.

Unions/Associations have no direct responsibilities for fare collection.

Transaction data from the ETMs is currently entirely a matter for the Operator. There is no requirement to provide any ETM-generated data to NTC.

Revenue Sharing or Revenue Distribution

There are currently no Revenue Sharing or Revenue Distribution agreements.

Consequently, there are currently no back-office systems. 

Ticketing Technologies used

Hand-held Electronic Ticket Machines (ETMs) are currently in use on more than half of all public and private sector buses in Sri Lanka. This is a progressive deployment, which is required to extend to 100% of the fleet

Stimulus for Fare Collection Systems - a Supreme Court Ruling

A 2007 ruling of the Supreme Court in Sri Lanka has been the stimulus for the deployment of electronic ticket machines (ETMs) in the Sri Lankan bus industry. The Supreme Court ruled, inter alia, that passengers should receive a printed receipt for the fare paid, and that a record should be kept of the transaction.

Previously, conductors collected fares. There were issues about overcharging or other irregularities. There were also issues relating to customer claims about insurance or seeking refunds. The ruling required that a formal ticket be issued which states the origin, destination, date, time, tariff paid, and unique ticket number.

The NTC were tasked to bring this about and established a project to implement it. 

Deployment of Fare Collection systems

NTC made it a condition of Permits that an ETM is utilized and that all passengers receive printed tickets.

NTC prepared specifications for the ETMs, which contained both functional and technical aspects. NTC invited suppliers to register suitable products with them, checked the proposed models for compliance with the specification and carried out field tests. On that basis they initially accredited the products of two suppliers, and subsequently accredited the products of two more suppliers. It is the specific model that is accredited, not just the supplier.

Machines were first available in late-2008/early-2009. Of the two initial accredited suppliers, one did not establish a presence, leaving a single supplier. The machine price was in the range LKR 40-45,000. Subsequently, two other suppliers have entered the market and prices have become more competitive.

NTC continues to develop the specification. For example, GPRS capability is now being added to the specification, and in time it will become mandatory.

Current extent of Deployment of Fare Collection Systems

All three currently active suppliers are registered with NTC and provide type-approved models which are compliant with the NTC specifications. 

  • Access Pvt. has sold about 1,000 units to SLTB, and about 200 units to the private operators
  • Oceania has sold about 5,000 units to the private sector
  • Lishvin has sold more units to the private sector (i.e. >5,000 units), reflecting the fact that they were first to enter the market

In summary, this suggests that 15-20% of the SLTB services have ETMs, whereas a little over half the private sector operators are using ETMs.

ETM Models

Oceania and Access (the two suppliers met during the Case Study) provide rather different products, even though they are essentially similar in functional terms.

Both models have the following common functions:

- User turns on the machine and selects the route to be operated (there might be only one route available on the machine)

- User selects the direction of travel (up/down)

- ETM defaults to first section on the route, conductor increments the section as the journey proceeds

- Basic ticket issue is by entering the destination section number and a ticket issue key

- Half fare tickets are issued by a further keystroke

- Any number of passengers can be covered on a single ticket (showing the number of full and half fares)

- Tickets can also be issued for multiple destinations (all have same starting point) which is shown as a list of destinations and fares paid for each one

- The user closes the trip with a specific option from the menu

- The user has options to print out the ‘detailed’ or summary data for the trip, and for the whole day. Note that ‘detailed’ is additional details in the summary.

The Oceania product is the more basic. It is provided by an Indian manufacturer. The key features (taking in mind comparison to the Access product) are:

  • Flatter, slightly slimmer device
  • Somewhat lighter
  • More complex keyboard, requires more keystrokes for non-basic transactions
  • Data transfer by USB port
  • Must bring device to agent to have fare table updated (when fares increase occurs)
  • GPRS-enabled option will be made available
  • Does not store individual transaction data

The Access product is somewhat more advanced. It is manufactured in Hong Kong and China. The key features (taking in mind comparison to the Oceania product) are:

  • Chunkier, apparently more rugged
  • Somewhat heavier
  • Simpler keyboard and keystrokes
  • GPRS-enabled, as standard
  • Uploads current fare table from Access server, on start-up (i.e. no need to bring back to agent for updates)
  • At trip end, user is asked to enter a ‘cash in hand’ value. An SMS is automatically sent to the Owner with trip summary, including total sales, cash in hand, time start/finish, …
  • There are password-protected report facilities, intended for use by the Operator and not by the conductor
  • Can also download data
  • For private operator version, the download function simply checks that the device is OK
  • For SLTB version, downloads data to the SLTB server (supplier has no visibility on the data)
  • For private operator version, individual transaction are not captured and stored, only increments the summary totals
  • For SLTB version, individual transactions are captured and transferred in the GPRS download to the SLTB server
  • The units sold to the private Operators and SLTB are the same, only the software is different. The current units that the private Operators could have their software modified to capture and store individual transactions by GPRS upload
  • The GPRS functionality is achieved by a SIM from any mobile phone supplier. As far as the vendor is concerned, this is a third party capability contained within its device. It is up to the user/Owner to keep the credit topped up
  • Can accept proximity smartcard interface

Both suppliers feel that their equipment has held up well and matched or exceeded expectations. The main wear items are the batteries and the thermal printer units.

Off-vehicle Ticketing Sales and Distribution

There is currently no off-vehicle ticketing sales and distribution.

Operational and Logistical aspects of Fare Collection

Operators purchase the machines directly from the suppliers. ETMs are only sold to valid permit holders, and ETMs are only enabled for the route(s) that the Permit holder is entitled to operate.

This transaction is between these parties and NTC does not get involved with it, other than accrediting the products. However, if there are complaints from the industry sector, NTC will investigate them – e.g. about price for maintenance, batteries, paper quality.

The Owner buys the equipment, and supplies it to the conductors for use. In that sense, it is “standard issue” and has become part of the mandatory equipment with the bus.

Suppliers are issued by NTC with a CD-ROM containing all of the Fare Table files. Each ETM is programmed with the route(s) authorized for that Operator. This responsibility rests with the supplier, who should check the Permits held by the purchaser.

It is currently not a requirement for the suppliers to keep a record of machines sold, purchasers and route details loaded, or to return such information to NTC.

Suppliers generally sell the ETM as a consumable item, provide some initial training and a manual, and a warranty. They do not normally enter into a maintenance agreement or provide any post-sales support or training.

Responsibility for the supply, proper use, and maintenance of the ETMs rests entirely with the Operator. Responsibility for ticket issue and revenue protection rests entirely with the Operator.

There is no formal agreement or maintenance agreement, other than whatever warranty comes with the ETM (typically 1 year). If there are problems, the Operator either brings the unit back to the vendor or looks for someone else to repair it. Similarly, purchasing consumables (especially thermal paper) is a matter for the Operators, there are many options available in the market. 

Initial training is provided to the purchaser, and a manual is supplied. After that, it is up to the Operator to arrange any training for the conductors or other personnel.

The Bus Companies check the vehicles each day prior to service for all compliance items, including ETMs. Dispatching records are kept, but this is entirely from the timekeepers’ manual records. The ETM data is not used to supplement this.

Revenue Protection

Revenue protection is entirely the responsibility of the Operators.

Virtually all buses in the private sector are individually owned. The Owner determines the basis of the agreement with the Driver and Conductor, either:

  • The crew is paid a wage with all revenues being returned to the Owner. In this case while the Conductor should ensure all fares are collected, the Owner also needs to monitor revenue and prevent leakage; or
  • The Owner is paid an agreed amount for the use of the vehicle and the surplus is retained by the crew. In this case, all aspects of revenue protection are the responsibility of the crew

NTC and the PRPTAs do not have any role in revenue protection. Their sole interest is to ensure that tickets are being issued to all customers, and for the correct amount.

Capital costs of Fare Collection System

Currently, a standard model currently retails for about LKR 28,000 (c. US$255)

A GPRS –enabled model retails for about LKR 38,500 (c. US$ 350).

When the machines were first introduced and there was a single supplier in a new market, the price was LKR 40-45,000 (c. US$ 365-410).

Currently only the units are being purchased, without ancillary devices, back-office software, etc.

The units are purchased by the Operators themselves – i.e. the Owners of the vehicles (who are the Permit holders). NTC has no role in this.

Mostly the operators pay for the units outright, although there are options to pay by installments over about 6 months. The supplier of the GPRS-enabled model note that they can lock individual terminals during the upload process, in case the Operator does not keep up his payments.

Some PRPTAs have been arranging purchase finance with Banks.

From the purchasing profile, the suppliers advise that the Operators are indeed individual owners, or individuals who own a few units. There is no bulk purchasing, and Operators are not combining to try to get better price.

Operating Costs of the Fare Collection System

Operating costs currently consist of:

- Printer paper, which is standard stationary issue and can be purchased widely

- Maintenance of the units, for which there is currently little harmonization and widely varying service levels around the country

Benefits realized from the System

NTC consider that benefits have been gained from the deployment of the ETMs. The following are identified:

  • Formality has been introduced to the sector
  • There is an improved perception by the public of the private Operators, who hitherto had been perceived poorly
  • Some of the better educated Operators have appreciated the benefits of the ETMs and the data they provide
  • Customers now have their tickets as proof if they wish to pursue complaints or enquiries

Overall, NTC considers that the ETM program has been very successful and they are pleased with their preparation and deployment model.

To date, most Operators appear to view the ETMs as a compliance requirement, and hence the main benefit has been to continue in business. Some Owners have begun to understand that the data gives them better information about how much revenue should be received.

Currently, neither the Bus Companies nor the Associations receive or seek any ETM data, and to date they have not sought to harness the potential value in having any of this data.

Critical Success factors in Implementation


The following are identified as Critical Success Factor for implementation of ETMs in Sri Lanka:


  • The Proactive role of NTC
    • Development of functional/technical specifications for ETMs
    •  Approval of suitable ETM models
    • Production of fare tables and anomaly reconciliation
    • Capacity support to the Provincial PRPTAs
    • Technical support to the sector
    • NTC did not seek to involve itself in the ETM supply
      • NTC limited its role to being a neutral technical advisor
      • NTC allowed the Suppliers and Operators to trade normally
      • Equal focus was given to the independent and small operators
        • NTC did not just start with SLTB and formal operators, leaving the rest of the industry to follow later
        • The cost of the ETMs is now included in the calculation of the tariffs

Difficulties faced in the Implementation

In general, the implementation has proceeded well. The issues faced include:

  • The need to generate unique Fare Tables for each route, as this is a fundamental requirement for any form of Fare Collection system. With over 2,400 routes, this is a time-consuming process. It is now complete for Western, Central and Southern Provinces.
  • Of the two suppliers initially accredited, only one became established. This reduced the availability of ETMs, and the lack of choice meant that the most competitive price was not available until other suppliers entered the market. This is now overcome.
  • Initially there were problems with the weight of the ETM units. This has been mitigated by reducing the weight of the unit, and providing waist belts

Difficulties faced in Operations

In general, the deployment of the ETMs has worked well. Nonetheless, a few issues have emerged, which are primarily transitional, including:

  • Suppliers have not developed sufficiently extensive support and maintenance agent networks, at least not to the extent that the Operators would seek
  • For most models, Operators must bring their ETMs back to the supplier for update whenever there is a tariff increase. This is a problem if the support network is insufficient.
  • Training may not be sufficiently structured. It normally consists of some demonstration at the time of purchase, and a manual, but no other follow-up.
  • There does not appear to be a structured means of training Conductors and others in how to care for the machine

ETMs generally work well for a period of time, but then start to have problems. The main stated causes of failures are:

  • Batteries
  • Keyboards
  • Printer wheels

The problem with batteries appears to be longevity, lasting 6-12 months. There does not appear to be a problem of poor or unpredictable performance in the early months. The same would appear to be the case with the other components.

Potential Developments in the near future

The following items are considered for future developments:

  • Integrated ticketing
  • Smart card payments (tap’n’go)
  • Link with banks in relation to financing of vehicles – the bank would receive the ETM data assisting them to receive the payments for the lease/loan from the day’s takings
  • Using location data to monitor compliance. There is currently a pilot of GPS/GSM devices installed in 70 buses, and linked to a Control Centre. This could be linked to the GPRS-enabled ETMs.

Technical Documentation

Background/Reference documentation

Ministry of Transport (Sri Lanka), Draft National Transport Policy, 2008

A. Kumarare and M. Jayaratne: “Lessons in Ownership, Regulation and Management from 100 Years of Bus Transport in Sri Lanka”, Reforms in Public Transport, Volume 22, Issue 1, 2008

A. Kumarage: “Criterion for a fares policy and fares index for bus transport in Sri Lanka”, International Journal of Regulation and Governance 2 (1): 53-73, 2008

A. Kumarage, J. Weerawardena, and R. Piyasekera: “A Concession Model to Promote Rural Bus Services in Sri Lanka”, 11th International Conference  on Competition and Ownership in Land Passenger Transport, Delft, 2009

Information on tariffs, applications for permits and other background data are available from the National Transport Commision website at

[1] A. Kumarage: “Criterion for a fares policy and fares index for bus transport in Sri Lanka”, International Journal of Regulation and Governance 2 (1): 53-73, 2008