Sri Lanka Transport Board

Sri Lanka Transport Board (S.L.T.B.)
Founded 1 January 1958, as Ceylon Transport Board
Headquarters Narahenpita, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Service area Sri Lanka
Hubs Central Bus Station (CBS), Pettah, Colombo
Fleet 6000+[1]

The Sri Lanka Transport Board (formerly: Ceylon Transport Board, CTB) is a bus service provider in Sri Lanka.

Between 1958 and 1978, the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) was the nationalised enterprise which handled all public bus transport in Sri Lanka. At its peak, it was the largest omnibus company in the world — with about 7,000 buses and over 50,000 employees. With privatization in 1979, it underwent a period of decline. The present number of buses in the fleet is 4500.

First broken up into several regional boards, then into several companies, it was finally reconstituted as the Sri Lanka Transport Board in 2005.


A routemaster at Godagama junction in Homagama, Sri Lanka

The first motor omnibus in Sri Lanka was imported in 1907 and bus transport began in Sri Lanka as an owner-operated service. There was no regulation, so when more than one bus operated on a single route, there was a scramble for the load. By the mid-1930s, malpractices in pursuit of maximum profit began to compromise safety and comfort. The setting up of the limited liability omnibus companies by the British around 1940 was the first meaningful step in regularising public passenger transport in the country.

The Ratnam Survey in 1948, the Sansoni Survey in 1954 and the Jayaratna Perera Survey in 1956 studied the bus services in Sri Lanka and all recommended that the companies should be nationalised.

The history of Sri Lanka Transport Board goes back to 1 January 1958; at the time known as the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB). The inaugural trip of the CTB took the Prime Minister and the Transport and Works Minister Maithripala Senanayake on a maroon luxury Mercedes-Benz bus imported from Germany. The bus is still owned by the Nittambuwa Bus Depot.

At its peak, it was the largest omnibus company in the world — with about 7,000 buses and over 50,000 employees. With privatization in 1979, it underwent a period of decline. The creation of a single nationalised entity made possible long distance operations and running buses on a large number of rural routes.

First broken up into several regional boards, then into several companies, it was finally reconstituted as the Sri Lanka Transport Board in 2005. The move received bipartisan support in Parliament. It was hailed by the Joint Business Forum (J-Biz), which welcomed the revival of the CTB: this was one of the rare occasions on which the business community said a state bus service was better than privatised ventures.[2]


Main article: Sri Lanka Bus Routes
A topological map of bus routes in Colombo, many of which are operated by SLTB

SLTB serves both urban and rural routes. In many rural areas, it provides services in unprofitable areas that would be unattractive to private operators.[3]

Urban routes

Colombo has an extensive public transport system based on buses, some of which is operated by SLTB. The Central Bus Stand in Pettah functions as the primary hub for bus transport in Colombo.[4]

The road network in Colombo consists of radial links (or arterial routes), which link the city centre and district centres, and orbital links, which intersect the arterial routes; most bus routes run along the radial links without the benefit of dedicated bus lanes owing to the high volume of traffic at peak times.[5] A BRT system for Colombo has been proposed, but has yet to be implemented.[6][7]

Intercity routes

SLTB also serves many intercity routes. These routes connect many of the major population centres in the country.

As of January 2012, SLTB is the only bus operator on the Southern Expressway. It uses modern Lanka Ashok Leyland buses on the expressway to connect Galle with Maharagama. The buses operate every two hours.[8]

As of 2013, the SLTB has started operating on the Katunayake Expressway providing access for people from Negombo, Katunayake, Puttalam, etc. to maintain access within 20 minutes.


TATA 1510 Bus Owned By SLTB

Most of the fleet consists of buses from Lanka Ashok Leyland, Yutong, Tata, Mitsubishi and Isuzu with the most popular model being the Lanka Ashok Leyland Viking.[9]

The SLTB is currently expanding its fleet, by ordering new buses from Volvo[10][11] The buses ordered have modern facilities, including low-floor design and air-conditioning. In July 2011, trial runs began in Colombo to gauge passengers' response to the new buses.[12]


Most SLTB buses have a red livery and are easily recognisable.

Past liveries

The CTB originally painted its buses red and blue. The second-hand London Transport buses, which were the backbone of the fleet, just needed to be half-painted in blue, saving on costs. When aluminium bus bodies became the norm, large areas of the surface were left unpainted, with just red front and back and blue strips down the side, in order to save money.

The Logo was originally a blue oval with the words 'CTB' and the equivalents in Sinhala and Tamil painted on it in red. From 1970 this was replaced by an oval with a lion rampant or on field azure.

The present SLTB logo returns to the 1970s symbols, but with 'SLTB' instead of 'CTB' in Roman lettering, with 'Sri' added to the Sinhala script and no change in the Tamil script.

Transit Competitors

Buses from various private operators in Sri Lanka compete with SLTB(red bus in background)

SLTB buses compete with private buses throughout the country, as well as with rail services by Sri Lanka Railways.

Integration issues

Sri Lanka Transport Board has not integrated its services with other modes of transport, such as rail. Unlike transport systems in some other countries, Sri Lanka does not streamline ticketing between road and rail transport. Buses do not provide dedicated feeder-bus services to the railways, resulting in Commuter rail and buses acting as isolated systems in relation to each other. This creates a loss in efficiency.[13]

See also


  1. "Answer to rural area bus shortage". Daily News. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  2. "Private buses and the CTB". Retrieved 2 October 2005.
  3. "Sri Lanka Transport Board to import 2,000 single door buses for rural transportation". ColomboPage. 5 December 2011. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  4. "Transport in Colombo". Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet Publications. Retrieved 28 April 2009.
  5. Cader, Fathima Razik (23 January 2004). "One-way streets in Colombo". Daily News. The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. Retrieved 27 April 2009.
  6. Mushtaq, Munza (5 July 2006). "Sri Lanka to get a Bus Rapid Transit System courtesy Japan". Asian Tribune. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  7. BRT Planned or Under Construction in Asia
  8. Perera, Chaminda (3 January 2012). "Toning Southern Expressway: Luxury bus service starts today". Ceylon Daily News. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  10. "Sri Lanka Transport Board to get 100 new buses from India". ColomboPage. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  11. "SLTB to introduce luxury bus service soon". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  12. "Luxury bus, a boon to office workers". Sunday Observer. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  13. ADB Sector Paper. Sri Lanka Country Assistance Program Evaluation: Transport Sector. August 2007
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