History of the Ceylon Transport Board, which celebrates its Diamond Jubilee 


by HM Nissanka Warakaulle

The Ceylon Transport Board(now known as the Sri Lanka Transport Board) has undergone many changes and most of them for the worse. The Ceylon Transport Board(CTB) was established on the 01st of January 1958 under the SWRD Bandaranaike government with Mr. Maithripala Senanayake as the Minister of Transport and now has completed its diamond jubilee and two years more. All the existing bus companies throughout the island at that time were nationalized and brought under one umbrella. The first Chairman of the CTB was Vere de Mel. who had been an exemplary Civil Servant and on retirement had started his own taxi as Quickshaws. He had an efficient team, most of whom were Civil Servants and this team put the CTB on the right track from its inception.

At the beginning the CTB had only the personnel absorbed from the bus companies and these employess were later known as Section 38 employees as they had been absorbed in terms of the section in the relevant Act of Parliament n It was only sometime later that new employees were recruited to fill the vacancies that came into being with the reorganisation of the CTB.

The CTB continued without any major change until 1965 when there was a change of government with the UNP under the leadership of Dudley Senanyake taking over the reins of government. V.A Sugathadasa was appointed as the Minister of Transport and R.T De Silva assumed duties as the Chairman. The Minister in charge never interfered with the running of the CTB during this period too. At was at this time that the CTB started recruiting employees to the executive grades. Batches of graduates were recruited as Graduate Probationers and they were given a training in all Divisions of the CTB in the head office at Narahenpita and also at Werahera in the Supplies and Engineering Divisions. It was after this training that they were assigned to various positions in the head office as well as in depots. These executive officers were able bring in new blood to the organization and became an asset.

From the beginning up to about 1966 the CTB functioned with the same depots. Then with the demands from Ministers and MPs the CTB started increasing the number of depots with almost every electorate getting one. At first this was done in a haphazard manner as there were no details available of the number of buses and the employees in each depot. Later this was rectified and the Operations Division had all the details, including the employees (which actually should have been maintained in the Personnel Division) in each and every depot. This enabled the Chief Operations Manager to submit a Board Paper to the Board of Directors giving a clear picture of how the buses and employees were to be transferred to the new depot.

All the services operated by the CTB was done according timetables which were drawn up in the Schedules Branch of the Operations Division. If any change in the timetables of any depot it had be done by the Schedules Branch. These services were operated according to the running numbers which was allocated to each duty. The buses could be interchanged but they had to have the correct running number, which affixed on the sides of each bus for which there was a pocket. Now I do not think this system is adhered to in the CTB depots. It seems the running numbers of the buses are painted on the body of the bus, so that it would not be possible to interchange buses according to the requirement and the availability of buses.

There were adverse repercussions in this expansion because it did not help the CTB in any way except to increase the number of employees mainly for political gains rather than for the benefit of the CTB. All government members of Parliament were allowed to send in their hangers-on to get employment in the CTB. This increase of employees which was much more that the actual number required in terms of the number of buses available became a unbearable burden on the organization. This was one of the main reasons for the collapse of Asia’s biggest passenger transport organization at the time.

On recruitment, all drivers and conductors were given a very good training at the CTB Training School which was located in Kalutara. As a result of this training the drivers and conductors were well disciplined except, may be, for a rare black sheep. They adhered to road rules and were courteous to passengers. But at present there seems to be no difference between the drivers of the CTB busses and the private bus drivers. To get employment as a driver in the CTB a person has to have a licence to drive buses. And where could a person get the requisite experience other by driving a private bus. When such persons are recruited to the CTB they cannot change their ways from what they have been used to while driving private buses.

The CTB buses today are not maintained well. The servicing of buses are not done as in the earlier days when there was a dicking system with each bus having to be taken in for servicing and for any repairs to be attended to. As a result the buses seem to be run to death without any good maintenance of the buses.

The CTB has to have good Chairmen like Anil Munasinghe who was interested in the welfare of the organization as well as the employees. That would be the only way to resurrect this ailing giant. Fortunately fo the commuters at present there are the private buses which, even though not very comfortable , helps the commuters to get from one place to another.

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