The first stage of the Sri Lanka Transit Card will be implemented to 50 buses travelling in the Galle-Makumbura expressway route, once the ban on interprovincial travel is lifted after the current Covid-19 lockdown ends.
Speaking to us, National Transport Commission (NTC) Chairman Shashi Welgama stated that under the first stage, the Sri Lanka Transit Card will be implemented to 28 private buses and 22 Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) buses in the said expressway route once the ban on interprovincial travel is lifted.
He said the Transit Card will be first introduced to all expressway bus routes initially before moving on to railway and normal route bus services.
Welgama said that almost 90% of the project is completed and the first test run on the card was held at the Makumbura Multimodal Centre on Wednesday (8).
However, he said the current Covid-19 pandemic in the country has made it impossible to reach the timelines the project had before.
“We want to do it as soon as possible on a priority basis while expediting the whole project. We had timelines before, but we could not meet those timelines due to Covid-19,” he said.
Moreover, he said project members need to consult the newly appointed Cabinet Minister of Transport about the future plans of the project. Once implemented, he noted that the Transit Card could be reloaded on a daily or monthly basis based on the travel needs.
In April 2021, a four-party agreement was signed amongst SLTB, the NTC, People’s Bank, and LankaClear Ltd. to introduce the Sri Lanka Transit Card.
The initiative came in line with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s manifesto “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”, which proposed a single transport e-ticket system to be introduced in Sri Lanka.
SLTB and the NTC were required to implement the required technology backend to facilitate this card in public and private buses, while LankaClear operates the network to facilitate the transactions that are carried out for public transport using the card, under the guidance of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL).
The Ministry of Transport and the NTC obtained the support of all provincial transport authorities and the backing of most private bus owners’ associations towards the project.
Sri Lanka Transit Card got cabinet approval in February, and once implemented, it will be issued by all authorised financial institutions under the National Card Scheme (NCS) facilitated by LankaClear.
In January 2019, the CBSL announced that they are working to help introduce a digital transit card to be used in buses and trains and to support infrastructure for ticketing and fare collection.
The initiative was part of future plans and policies to promote digital payment mechanisms to establish a “less-cash society”.
Then CBSL Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy said that it will focus on promoting digital payment mechanisms to establish a less-cash society with a view to reducing cash management costs while enhancing safety and convenience.
Dr. Coomaraswamy said the CBSL will facilitate the implementation of a “National Transit Card” and infrastructure framework for ticketing and fare collection in bus and rail transport.