On the right TRACK

More than 1500 old Lon­don Trans­port buses have been ex­ported to Sri Lanka over the last 30 to 50 years, and a num­ber have been con­verted to op­er­ate on busy rail lines

ABC (Australia) - - BUS BUSINESS -

In the mid-1960s, a huge trans­fer of dou­ble-deck­ers took place, with 729 RTLs, 280 RTWs and 266 RTs ex­ported to Sri Lanka from the United King­dom. Sin­gle-deck ex­ports in­cluded 50 T-class Re­gals and 100 TD Ley­land Tigers, and a bunch of Routemas­ters were also shipped out from the UK to Sri Lanka in the late 1980s.

This one in par­tic­u­lar (pic­tured) and, in fact, many oth­ers like it that I en­coun­tered on my trav­els through Sri Lanka have been con­verted into trains that are be­ing used in the city of Kandy to this day.

The driver in­formed me in his lim­ited English that it takes 25 days for a team of ve to con­vert a sin­gle cab and that the amount of work to be done on the un­der­car­riage is con­sid­er­able.

It seemed amaz­ing to me that this would be used to trans­port lo­cals and tourists to and from the lovely Kandy Botan­i­cal Gar­dens just across from Kandy Sta­tion, where these unique Bri­tish im­port bus­trains op­er­ate daily.

On the in­side of the bus you can see just the sheer num­ber of weld­ing patches and the force of labour re­quired to con­vert what is very clearly a bus on the in­side and out into a bus on the rail tracks. And, most as­ton­ish­ingly, one that ac­tu­ally shares a line with fully edged longdis­tance pas­sen­ger trains.

The rst of these buses ar­rived in 1952 and from 1958 the en­tire bus op­er­a­tion on the is­land came un­der the wing of the Cey­lon Trans­port Board (CTB), a gov­ern­ment agency set up to na­tion­alise all ser­vices. Sub­se­quently, this be­came trans­ferred to a work­er­con­trolled op­er­a­tion re­named the Cen­tral Trans­port Board.

It seems, on in­spec­tion of the in­te­rior, that the whole cab­ins of these buses have been gut­ted to make way for a roomy driver’s area that barely re­sem­bles a bus or coach cabin. The whole front of this ‘ bus on tracks’ seems to have been re­moved en­tirely and re­placed with a train driver’s rig.

Pub­lic trans­port in Sri Lanka to­day is chaotic. A trac­tor and trailer is quite ad­e­quate and can be seen in com­mon use as a lo­cal kind of ‘ bus’ trans­port.

But by far the most com­mon in In­dia and Sri Lanka, at least, is the beloved tuk­tuk (also known as a good Sri Lankan bus driver’s worst en­emy).

The two main lo­cal bus man­u­fac­tur­ers are Tata and Ashok Ley­land – or the Sri Lankan li­cence-built ver­sion, the Lanka Ashok Ley­land, which is made near the cap­i­tal city Colombo.

Any­one ever re­motely con­nected with the bus in­dus­try in Aus­tralia or any other fully de­vel­oped na­tion would be amused by the way lo­cals catch the bus … with gusto. Sim­ply get one foot on the en­try step and one hand on the grab-rail and hoist your­self up. The bus doesn’t even come close to a stop, yet you’re on board. In­di­ana Jones eat your heart out.

It takes 25 days for a team of five to con­vert a sin­gle cab

Left: the unique Lanka Ashok Ley­land on tracks; Right (top to bot­tom): The cabin has been re­built; Still looks like a bus in­side; The links have to be built tough

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.