Building Buses, Coaches and Lorries
Posted on October 8th, 2020

Garvin Karunaratne former Government Agent, Matara

Buses, coaches, lorries and vans  can easily be built in Sri Lanka  using local timber. There are good carpenters who are experts at the job . When I was a young boy in the Forties I lived near the South Western Bus Co in Ratmalana and have seen coaches been built by our workmen. At that time every bus, coach and lorry  was built in Sri Lanka. It is seen that from 1978 the import of chassis with engines has been drastically reduced while the import of buses, coaches, lorries and vans  has increased. It can be estimated that  the cost of a chassis with an engine  can be estimated at approximately  30% of the total cost  of a built up bus, coach, lorry or van. Thus if chassis with engines are imported the cost in terms of foreign exchange  would be approximately 70% less. Local workers would have found employment. In the current situation local workmen are idle and unemployed.” 


Year              Buses & Coaches              Lorries & Vans            Chassis with engines  

1978              29.2                                   237.0                          407.4  

1985            273.9                                   701.6                            53.6  

The import of chassis has dwindled while the import of built up buses and coaches and lorries and vans has increased.”  

(Extract from: How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka & Alternative Prorammes of Development, Godages, 2006.  

Ratmalana was the home of the South West Bus Co one of the major bus companies and all its buses were built at Ratmalana.  The  Moratuwa Railway Workshops  built the railway coaches on imported chassis. In Moratuwa and Ratmalana, before 1978, thousands of carpenters were at work. At Werahera there was a major Workshop, fully equipped with all sort of machinery to make buses, coaches. Then every bus,coach and lorry in the country was of local make. Even today there are lone carpenters who build lorries on second hand chassis.  Now with built up imports we provide employment for workers in other countries and we also spend  fantastic amounts in foreign exchange for imports.. 

It is hoped that this is an areas where immediate action can be taken. As the Additional Government Agent at Kegalla I had the opportunity to see for myself a lorry being built on a chassis. This was for the purpose of building a float for a procession. It was done extremely well and after the occasion it was converted to a lorry and sold.  

This is an area for immediate action to provide employment and incomes and also to save our foreign exchange.  

This is something we did successfully earlier. 

Today the Government is hoping to find investors. Investors can be local or foreign. The Government is courting behind foreign investors in the hope that they bring us foreign funds.  No foreign investors are coming to Sri Lanka to build coaches and lorries. The Government itself has to invest in setting up workshops equipped with machinery to make busses, coaches, and lorries. Simultaneously the Government has to stop the import of buses, coaches, and lorries. The thinking of the Private Sector in Sri Lanka today is to find a fast income before the Government changes its policy and the investment is lost. 

Thus it is hoped that the Government will immediately establish workshops to make buses, coaches, and lorries. 

Garvin Karunaratne

former Government Agent, Matara


One Response to “Building Buses, Coaches and Lorries”

  1. aloy Says:

    Appreciate the consistent efforts being made by the writer.
    But I must say this is like “beeri alinta veena gayeemak”.

    There was a minister in the last government who even imported ‘thibbotu’ it seems, killing the food production in the country. And his deputy himself revealed that a massive quantity of Formalin was being imported by the same ministry and 95% of it was being used to lace the food products, which would cause cancer on an unprecedented level in the country (incidentally the brain dead guy is now showing a book someone wrote about ‘ganja’ and making a huge din in the parliament although he was hibernating all the while when they were in power).

    But the other day we saw a responsible ministers and top officials saying that the very person has done yeoman service to the country in spite of various allegations against him from various quaters. Such is the nature our country.

    I hope your write up get attention of powers that be.

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