When I was a kid, our household had a van. This was mostly given on hire while I was taken to pre-school in a taxi – a black ambassador car. Though I was a kid who didn’t ‘know the world’ back then, I still remember the days and the car. Ambassador cars were the taxis back then; I guess rickshaws pulled by people also existed. I can’t remember if the ‘tuk-tuks’ that we call now were in operation – I can find out if I google but I prefer to write this from whats on my mind.
They were called trishaws, 3wheelers (obviously) and only recently tuk tuks. Back then it felt like an awesome machine, small, swift and easy, but there was plenty of space on the roads. Along the line, authorities ignored the taxi industry, forgot the tuk tuks and now they seem to be a problem. Many changes for public transport were seen while private buses are regulated (although not under total control).
The tuk tuk population just reached a million recently as per a news item. That’s a huge percentage considering the total population of the country. Most of them I’m sure are from Colombo. It has become the easiest and simplest method of self employment for anyone. If you don’t have a job, buy or lease a tuk tuk, get on the road and run some hires – this seems to be the strategy. This has led to a drastic increase in number, increased competitions for those who put food on the plate with the help of tuk tuks and chaos on the roads!
Taxi meters took a long time to get going but once it did, most of them got them fixed. If one does not have a meter running, he gets less hires so is forced to use it. But still the meters are not standardized by SLS or any institutions nor are they regulated, specially the fare. With a fixed fare for the first km, they started charging 30/- for the km and most gradually increased to 40/- with the rise in petrol prices. Even for a 5/- increase they increased by 5/-. But when the fuel price was reduced, only a handful reduced the fare.
There are many who run for taxi companies, which cropped up very quickly. Back then only the premium taxi companies had a call center to order cabs – cars – and they were expensive. With 3wheel taxi companies coming up, the car taxis also improved their service. These 3wheel taxi companies charged a lower fare with two or three who are popular than the rest. Then we also had the nano taxis.
Too many tuk tuks, unregulated, is not healthy. They generally run riot on the roads, sneak through gaps and pose a risk to other law abiding drivers. Of late there are ‘educated’ people driving expensive cars who seem to have gotten this habit too. Anyway, the industry must be regulated. A permit scheme must be introduced to limit the number that can run at any given time.
This will be bad news for the Indian manufacturer, but hey, what’s important here? The Sri Lankan Government should look after the interests of its people.