Breath­ing space for three­wheel taxi fare me­ters

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

Three-wheeler op­er­a­tors will have time un­til the end of De­cem­ber to com­ply with rules to in­stall fare me­ters un­der the Mo­tor Traf­fic reg­u­la­tions.

And once again, as on pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions, there are dis­putes over the me­ters, af­ford­abil­ity, re­ceipts and stan­dards.

The deputy min­is­ter of Trans­port and Civil Avi­a­tion, Ashok Abeysinghe, told the Sun­day Times that it had been unan­i­mously de­cided by of­fi­cials that more time was needed to in­stal me­ters that meet Sri Lanka Stan­dards In­sti­tu­tion re­quire­ments.

Op­er­a­tors who al­ready use fare me­ters will have to in­stall new ones.

Three- wheeler taxi fare me­ter and re­ceipt reg­u­la­tions were gazetted first in Jan­uary this year.

“We will be in­tro­duc­ing an in­stal­ment pay­ment sys­tem. How­ever, it is manda­tory for the pas­sen­ger trans­port­ing three-wheel­ers to fix a me­ter,’’ Mr Abeysinghe said

Chair­man of the Na­tional Coun­cil for Road Safety, Sisira Kodagoda, said ob­jec­tions from three-wheeler as­so­ci­a­tions have been con­sid­ered.

Mean­while, three- wheeler driv­ers also say the re­cent reg­u­la­tions spec­ify of­fences and not the penal­ties.

“Dis­cus­sions will be held on Monday with eight com­pa­nies that are ex­pected to mar­ket the stan­dard me­ters. We will be dis­cussing con­ces­sion­ary terms for pro­vid­ing three-wheel­ers with me­ters,’’ he said.

He also re­vealed that the Na­tional Coun­cil for Road Safety will soon be turned into a com­mis­sion. This will pro­vide them with more pow­ers to act as a reg­u­la­tory body.

“Cab­i­net pa­pers have been pre­pared it has to only be pre­sented to the Par­lia­ment to be ap­proved. Al­though a proper date has not been fi­nalised, we ex­pect it to be any­time soon,’’ he said.

Pres­i­dent of the All Is­land Three-Wheel Driv­ers Union, Lalith Dhar­masekara, said that he agrees and dis­agrees at the same time about im­ple­ment­ing the re­vised reg­u­la­tions.

“I have been pres­suris­ing many gov­ern­ments be­fore to im­ple­ment the three-wheel reg­u­la­tions in the Mo­tor Traf­fic Act, which led me to the Court of Ap­peal in 2015 to im­ple­ment the gazette no­tice. How­ever, it has been de­layed for far too long. I be­lieve that they have to im­ple­ment the reg­u­la­tions,’’ he said.

But he also ques­tioned the prac­ti­cal­ity of stan­dard me­ters.

Mr Dhar­masekara pointed out that the gazette has stated the of­fences, but not the pun­ish­ments.

The chair­man of the All Is­land Three Wheeler Driv­ers’ and Own­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion Sudil Ja­yaruk, said the group agrees to in­stalling fare me­ters. But, he said, there has to be a reg­u­la­tory body to mon­i­tor the reg­u­la­tions and the pro­fes­sion.

“Ev­ery­body is driv­ing a three- wheeler to­day. Driv­ers are lured to sell­ing drugs, en­gage in un­der­world ac­tiv­i­ties and pros­ti­tu­tion. The blame falls on all three-wheel driv­ers,’’ he said.

Mr. Ja­yaruk sug­gests driv­ers be trained to fol­low civil laws, road rules, and cus­tomer ser­vice.

“An in­sti­tu­tion is im­por­tant to de­cide on a stan­dard price sys­tem, and a place where peo­ple can com­plain re­gard­ing dif­fi­cul­ties faced by pas­sen­gers. These will cre­ate a sense of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and pro­vide safety at the same time,’’ he said.

Still, he ques­tions the prac­ti­cal­ity of pro­vid­ing a re­ceipt to the pas­sen­ger at the des­ti­na­tion. This may not be pos­si­ble dur­ing an emer­gency.

There are also is­sues re­lated to reg­is­ter­ing the three- wheeler in a po­lice sta­tion. Mr. Kodagoda said al­though or­ders have been given to the pro­vin­cial coun­cils, there had been is­sues with re­gard to im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Po l i c e m e d i a s p o ke s p e r s o n , Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice, Ruwan Gu­nasekara, con­ceded that the gazette no­tice has only men­tioned the of­fences and not the pun­ish­ments.

But, he clar­i­fied, that ac­cord­ing to sec­tion 224 of the Mo­tor Traf­fic Act if there are no pun­ish­ments for an of­fence, then a case will be filed. The of­fender will be pro­duced be­fore a Mag­is­trates’ Court.

Three-wheeler driv­ers say the re­cent reg­u­la­tions spec­ify of­fences and not the penal­ties. Pic by Priyan­tha Wick­ra­maarachchi

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