Minister of Transport, Highways and Mass Media, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena told Parliament on Friday that the season ticket program for school, university and vocational students remains the biggest subsidy program of the Government, which spent a staggering Rs.21,775 million on it last year alone.
Minister Dr. Gunawardena said that only Rs.1,638 million has been charged from the students for this concessionary program. The Minister said that only 7 percent of the total cost is charged from a school student for a season ticket and the remaining 93 percent is borne by the Government. Also, the Minister said that only 21 percent of the fixed value is charged for a season ticket from university and technical college students and the remaining 79 percent of the total amount is borne by the Government.
In 2022, under the concessionary season ticket system, only Rs.1,153 million had been collected from the students to issue season tickets worth Rs.14,941 million, the Minister said. He said the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) should receive Rs.33,000 million from the Government as the total subsidy for 2022 and 2023, but only Rs.14,000 million has been received for the two years. The delay in receiving the arrears has caused a problem in maintaining the SLTB, the Minister said.
The Minister also said that although there was no need to issue season tickets in January as it is the school vacation, they issued season tickets for the convenience of students sitting the G.C.E. (AL) Examination islandwide.
The Treasury provides funds to the National Transport Commission (NTC) to run the Sisu Seriya school bus service, which deploys 790 SLTB buses and 710 private buses, the Minister added. In 2023, around 115,500 students from 5,331 schools used the Sisu Seriya school bus service. The Transport Board incurred Rs. 493.71 million for this service, while the allocated budget for Sisu Seriya transport in 2023 was Rs. 1,660 million.
The Treasury released Rs. 1,580 million for the purpose.
Dr. Gunawardena said although the income generated from the buses under this program is only sufficient to cover its expenses, the SLTB conducts this program as a social service to support and facilitate education.
In addition to the Sisu Seriya service, an additional 1,450 buses run daily. These operations are conducted nationwide. Dr. Gunawardena added that these transportation operations will be maintained as a public service accessible for office workers and school students.
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