By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne –
I take the train to work.
Like a lot of people, I wake up every morning and cast a bleary eye on the clock. There’s a train at 8:10. Good. I can reach the station at 7:50 AM, enough time to buy a ticket and realize that there’s nowhere for me to sit. All is normal.
Sri Lankan trains are divided into “Express” and “Slow” variants. The difference is that the express trains only stop at designated ‘major’ stations, like Gampaha, Ragama, Dematagoda, Maradana and Colombo Fort. The slow trains are meant to pick up those from the little stations that pepper the land in between – like Horape, where I live.
I suppose in theory, this was meant to quickly and efficiently move the larger populations between popular hubs and let us peasants take the slow trains. It makes sense, right? Places like Horape are where people come from. Nobody really wants to go to Horape.
Unfortunately, whoever designed this system forgot to tell people to stop reproducing. What happens is that a veritable wagonload of people get on at these ‘little’ stations, like Enderamulla. These people are stuffed into cramped, sweaty carriages, packed like poorly dressed sardines in a can.
Photo- Eran Wickramaratne – Deputy Minister of Highways and Investment Promotion boarded train/ Picture via Eran’s Facebook.
This is where the Sri Lankan ‘bus mentality’ comes into full play. You will be pushed against. You will be pressed. Various people will hang on to you for dear life. That one dumbass will spread-eagle himself in front of the doors, jamming an elbow right in front of your face. That other dumbass will pull down a window, presumably with the intention of speeding up death by CO2. There will be, and this is statistically guaranteed, a bunch of women hanging onto that pole in the middle, preventing anyone else from actually getting more than a few feet into the carriage.
Then there’s at least one person with ridiculously smelly hair oil doing to your lungs what CFCs do to the ozone layer. There will also be a handbag jammed up your ass, attached to a scowling woman who thinks your left buttock cheek is trying to rob her lunch money or whatever.
That’s if the train arrives on time.
Let me point out here that the chances of a slow train actually arriving on time are approximately equal to Miley Cyrus winning the Sri Lankan National Lottery – that is to say, zilch. The 8:10 train may come at 8:20; it is equally likely to come at 8:30, 8:40, or even not arrive altogether. In a world of ever-changing realities, there is one unchanging absolute: the train will never, ever be on time.
Why bother? Because, at the end of the day, the train is a lot cheaper than a 8-year lease on a Honda Vezel. 5-6 million commuters agree every day.
Now if this was all, my morning commute would be no different from that of so many thousands of others, and I’d have to find something else to be angry about. But no; this is where things get interesting.
Our Railway is a mess, and not just because of grannies with handbags the size of the Titanic. Look at these statistics from the Central Bank, published in 2014:
What do they tell us? That the Railway made Rs 4,487 million off passengers. That’s almost 4.5 billion rupees. How much did it count as expenditure? Rs 10,586 million.
That’s over 10.5 billion rupees, over 6 billion more than it makes from passengers. Even if you examine the other statistics, like earnings from goods delivery, they don’t come close to even wiping this gulf. Our Rail system is running at a colossal loss – around Rs 5 billion.
The irony of this is we are running at a colossal loss while being smaller in every possible way compared to 2004. In 2014 we had 202 broad-gauge locomotives. By 2013 we had 137. We had 1,152 passenger coaches in 2004. 2013? 740. We had 2,135 goods wagons in 2004. By 2013 we had 800.
It gets better. In 2004 17,000+ people worked for the Railway. By 2013 this number had dropped to less than 13,000. Working expenditure in 2004 was a little over Rs 4 billion. This number skyrocketed to Rs 8 billion by 2008 and, get this, held more or less constant up to 2012 – and until 2011 there were over 15,000 employees working at the Railway. Even accounting for inflation, which seems to have been slightly over 7% through the 2004-2015 period, that doesn’t add up.
To be fair, this report does not tell us anything about the schedules, running frequencies and conditions and upkeep of the rolling stock. TL;DR: we’re doing a lot, lot less with a lot, lot more.
In an interview with Ceylon Today, S.P. Withanage of the All Ceylon Railway Employees’ General Union points out that:
a) There was a massive lack of skilled labour in the Railway, on the order of tens of thousands of jobs.
b) The then-Minster of Transport would hire his lackeys for unskilled labour.
c) Rail lines were laid by Indian and Chinese companies at astronomical costs, while SLR could have laid them for a lot less.
So Politics Killed the Railway Star? Yes. Our rail system isn’t just inefficient, it’s horribly out of date: we’re still running those old Canadian diesels: the General Motors EMD G12, developed in 1952. Look around in Colombo Fort for an old engine with a nameplate bearing the word “Vancouver”.
Yes, that engine is older than you are. I’m no expert in engine design, but I’m pretty sure that in the past 60 years we’ve come up with faster, more economical engines.
Now, what can be done?
Sometime back, Indi Samarajiva shared a rudimentary sketch of improvements to public transport, some of which are probably feasible – the part about splitting up the long-distance travel might work. The rest is not – because the problem is that in the sphere of rail, we don’t really need trains shuttling around Colombo. The people who use the trains are people commuting from outside Colombo. Inside Colombo, there’re buses – and while not perfect, they do a reasonable job.
What needs to be done, at least at the start, is more basic:
a) get the trains to run on schedule.
b) make more of the express trains run the Slow beat. This, if done right, prevents excess buildups of passengers along the lines.
c) upgrade trains to larger passenger capacities and install more trains to run the rush hour lines.
d) Increase the bottom-end ticket prices. I think it’s ridiculous that you can get from Ragama to Maradana for 15 rupees when the same price will barely get you halfway there on the bus.
Going forward, we can look at electric and other options, but for now, just pick up the damn passengers on time.
There is absolutely no question that rail in this country should be developed. As Gustavo Petro, the Mayor of Bogota, Columbia, said: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”
We have a traffic problem to deal with, so building roads and adding buses, while good, is not going to solve traffic: one only has to look at New York and Robert Moses to understand that. We need the rail running.
*Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is a contributor to Colombo Telegraph, his articles can be found on his blog, icaruswept.com
Vibhushana / October 14, 2015
This system is a legacy of 1972 Socialist era. The idea was businesses is best run by the govt. The profits can be minimised and cost benefits can flow to the citizen. What happened was the complete opposite.
Maintaining a profitable business is very hard. The statistics are telling. Something like %5 of all businesses survive the first 5 years.
If a profit is not being made then the losses need to borne by someone. Most in the left-wing thinks money grows on trees. There is a 6 billion hole here. The SLTB has far bigger losses. The losses need to be met by taxes of every worker who toils for a living.
I think trains are subsidized to a certain extent anyway. But other countries have learnt this lesson long ago to let it me run as a private enterprise.
Hamlet / October 14, 2015
My grouse is that the Trains, Express and Slow make no Time Allowances for Elderly Passengers to Alight. All the young ones have rushed to the Exits long before the Next Train Stop, and they get off.
We are the Last, left hanging on for Dear Life in an Exit, miles away from the platform, while the train moves away, with no option but to Jump, or be Carried to the Next Stop.
Vetmahadeva / October 16, 2015
The railway is in a complete mess – Everything Wrong with the Railway, It appeared to me as that the authorities wanted to do away the railways, whenever I took a train to out skirts of Colombo, a complete mess.
Please do not do away the railway transport, because simply you cannot afford to give more burden to the road transport which is already bungled up with unresolvable congestion of traffic and jamming at every junction as it tries to passage ever booming vehicle. The best solution is to work in coordination with railways, or vice-versa to solve the burning problems of entire transport system, which itself badly require a complete revamp, starting with remodeling the existing system. Different sections of CGR should work in integration in targeting to achieve three objectives.
1. Providing decent civilized transport service to working sector, suburbs to urban
2. Attracting more passengers towards railways as means of attracting commuters towards Public Transport as a National Policy.
3. Resource management to increase the efficiency of available locomotives and engines through innovative operations.
It is a must before considering the massive projects of 5 and 10 year plans as solution for present problems, to look into what we are doing now and how we are managing the available resources towards solving the problems we are facing now. Unless we do that, how we are going to simply cope up with such sophisticated systems and claim it would be a successful plan to the present crisis born out of mess, crisis is born out from messing up.
Vetmahadeva / October 17, 2015
Further continuing, the above
“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation. It was said by a Colombian Mayor”
But well fits into the Colombo’s Necessity, it is mandated to resolve the problem within the available resources first, before venturing into mega projects we all know why they are in lookout for mega projects. Bungling up for Newer and bungle the new as well, it is a cyclic manipulation for corruption knowingly or unknowingly through mismanagement – absence of self-analytical improvement leads to failure of the system both by commuter satisfaction as well as for economic benefits and income.
I suggested of mono rail system over Colombo Metropolitan in 2004, I am not backing up, but let us know where and how we faltering so that to cope up with a new one.
Install real attractiveness and safety into the CGR service to the commuters to meet the above, this would be far better than introducing the luxury bus service in order to ease the traffic congestion of the already cramped up road travel. How many a luxury bus can accommodate for a destination. Therefore it is clearer that attracting the commuters towards public transport is far more economical than through road transport. But the railway is already packed up with cramping of passengers particularly of suburbs of Colombo the work force – these important people of each and every sector are jam packed to squeeze out the healthy strength to and fro everyday 5 to 6 days a week, a work force cannot be treated like this.
The Railway system is one of those that we inherited from our colonial masters, and if we imagine that they would have planned it in a manner suiting to our people’s respect and decency of travel never, Sri Lanka Railways (CGR) [I find no reason to call it SLR] should consider their commuters as respectable human being, not as begging animals languishing for cheapest transport mode. First CGR shall make some attempt to install some respect to the commuters and the wagons designed for “can-packing of humans” should be removed from the full passenger system and be used for transport of vendors with commodities, vegetables catch of fish and animals and should be the cheapest mode of class; these “Bench Seated” compartments suits to the vendors and the railway authorities should make arrangements to promote these “special compartments” and making additional income through every train plying on coastal lines, most importantly in “Raja Rata Rajani” plying from Vavuniya to Matara which is a farmers travel mode apart from pilgrims and Tourists. Therefore each train carrying the office crowd to Colombo should have class variations of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and the fourth Vendor Special Class, and the present 3rd class rate should be the rate for Vendor Special Class in order promote this and to provide a decent travelling for the office crowd of Colombo, replaced with decent adequately seated compartments only for commuters.
0530HRS to 0930HRS and 1630HRS 1900HRS be declared as workforce travel time CGR and schedule the trains for no-standing travel. CGR be prepared to release trains all seated according to the demand at the beginning of crucial but necessary changes– then reschedule it for passenger convenience only. Resource management of engines should play a crucial role for the success of this project.
You must ban or introduce system that shunts away the standing while travelling in a train whatever the distance for the best reasons of safety of a passenger, decency as well to be attractive.
Whatever the distance the trains must have class deference, and each and every ticket issuing officer shall have the knowledge of strength, capacity and pros and cons of class variations of each train at his fingertips – this requires internal networking communication within among stations, this applies to short distance trains as well as long distance trains. All coastal line trains particularly of those plying towards Galle, Matara and Necombo urgently requires decent seated compartments, I have seen tourists travelling up to Galle from Colombo Fort standing and I was also one of them who couldn’t not only find a seat, even could not stand properly due to overcrowding in a train that left Fort by 0935 and reached Galle 1330. These destinations should have trains every hour and be attractive too, just alone running condition wagon won’t do.
It is laborious to implement the above, nevertheless the present crisis of transport system and the train commuters plight to-gather demands to come out of conventional systems of colonial period stigma of signal systems tracks and timing, revamping the entire system so as to accommodate more trains as many as every ten minutes for the suburb work force people travel back and forth to Colombo stress free so you naturally get an better out from them for any sector! Quite obviously it demands a labour force and able supervisors for maintenance of track and modern alert systems, you have to eat a bitter pill to get rid of the ill, let that people have some money hard earned!! Even the Locomotives and engines that can power more wagons and compartments have to be looked for rather than adhering to the conventional system. Different sections of CGR should work in integration in targeting to achieve three objectives above said. Even the Station Masters and staffs shall come out of their conventional clout and may need to act readily alleviate the train delays and passenger difficulties through the knowledge modern information technology.
Just for loading and unloading in between destinations and just running between destinations we don’t need a system at the caliber of Ceylon Government Railways!
Jagath Fernando / October 14, 2015
Thanks for raising the issue.
Railway was and is killed by politicians. No sound economic decisions will be made sistine they would be politically disastrous.
The only way to minimize losses now is to reduce the number of trains on the track.
We need a complete overhaul. Few suggestions
1 increase bottom end fares to be 20% lower than bus fares and not 50% cheaper as it is the case now.
2 increase cargo revenues. All fuel to major towns should be only by train.
3 use railway assets such as carriages and stations for advertising
4 link Colombo port to railway
5 private sector management at the top
6 improve tracks and signals.
7 all long distance trains to have a first class with premium prices
8 all tourist destinations should have observation cars
9 link up export zones to rail links to minimize container transport by road
10 should have a plan to break even within 3 years.
Hamlet / October 14, 2015
Jagath Fernando, I would add a no 11:-
11. Have the next stop displayed on TV, in all compartments in all the three Languages, so that non-regular travellers would know where to get off.
Uthungan / October 14, 2015
I would add a No. 12 to commence passenger service to BIA Katunayake via Colombo Fort to Galle and Kandy to and fro every hour.
pacs / October 14, 2015
My experience is to loose my purse to organised robbers in the 1st class compartment in the Colombo- Pallai train. I felt that we are robbed in the train too a form of pogrom. I think no need to elaborate on it.
amarasiri / October 14, 2015
SEASON TICKET GAMPAHA TO FORT RS 600/ PER MONTH
RS 10 PER ONEWAY TRAVEL TO FORT
HOW CAN IMPROVE SLR RAIL SYSTEM
WE MUST THANK RAILWAY PEOPLE THEY WORKING WITH POOR SIGNAL SYSTEM,OLD COMPARTMENTS,WEAK RAIL ROAD,LACK OF STAFF
BUT GOVERNMENT THINKING MONORAIL,HOW MUCH COST TICKET
Japwatch / October 14, 2015
Just don’t stop writing! I am wondering if there is some connection we share in our way of thinking.
I love trains. In Japan, I could just miss going to work if I stop at Shinagawa station. The fast trains, slow trains, the Shinkansen and others could be moving through this station at the same time. In one instance, I recollect even a new track construction was taking place while these trains were operating.
Just 2 weeks ago, I happened to take the Yaldevi to Vavuniya and returned the same day. It was rather ok. But could not help sulking at the way the passengers were abusing the train. The toilets were spic and span when the journey started. But I did take a roll of toilet tissue for self and team. Half way through the journey, it was all messed up, water running, doors left open. Some people would buy the instant coffee and tea given in little disposable cups and carry it to the other end of the train. Spilling all over the floor, trampling and staining the clean seats…
So I think that passengers should also learn to travel in a civil manner and respect the fact the other passengers.
Another thing to note, the outbound Yaldevi from Fort was from platform 3, very convenient. The inbound stopped at platform 9 or something. So the long trek back from that platform to the exit was rather scary. Especially for Senior citizens and others with health issues.
Do you think that Sri Lanka will ever achieve the decent train travel in the future? If the Japanese can do it wh can’t the Sri Lankans?
Paul / October 14, 2015
Children have to be taught cleanliness and civic duty from the Kindergarten upwards. That is the only way to create a decent society but the impetus for this has to come from the top. The way Sirisena and the rest are going, this will never happen.
Hamlet / October 14, 2015
Paul, I agree.
Children are taken by Teachers, in busloads to places of Historical and Scenic interest, but they are not taught how to dispose of their ‘Buth Kola’ and drink containers in a civilised manner.
They drop them wherever they finish. It is a disgrace!
Bo / October 15, 2015
You asked, “If the Japanese can do it wh can’t the Sri Lankans?”
Well it’s simple Mr Japwatch. They are Japanese and disciplined nation, and we the Sri Lankans are Sri Lankans the indisciplined. Hardly an enterprising nation but clever in bragging, begging for international aids all the time, false bravado, arrogant and lazy, corrupt, disorganized, oversensitive, heart in their sleeves, backstabbing, jealous and envious lot. We gloat in the pride of history and what our forefathers did 20 centuries ago, but nowadays unable to come to a consensus on anything other than on a Dansela. This description fits all politicians, leaders, masses, clergy collectively.
Japwatch / October 16, 2015
What you say is true.
Different nationalities have their own weaknesses. If you describe the Sri Lankans that way, then I would describe the Japanese as having the ‘ostrich syndrome’. See how they are struggling about UNs endorsement of the Nanjng massacre.
Japanese are disciplined alright. It is taught in schools at a tender age that you must not go with the crowd, never stand out. But then there is a huge issue among the Japanese. The Japanese don’t know how to deal with jealousy and envy. This is one of the main reasons for deaths, murder, suicide among even the school going children.
bo / October 17, 2015
Well Mr Japwatch, you are writing as if you have not heard of all the murders, suicides, rapes, crimes against children and old people committed in our lovely Buddhist country where every poya day is a government holiday and temples are crowded with white clad devotees, and mass meditation sessions are conducted by loud speaker. Do you think our folks excel in controlling their jealousies and envy despite 25-centuries of Buddhist learning? Actually I have heard of a very rich, leading Theravada monk spending most of his time in Japan masquerading as a Zen or Mahayana, pretending to be exporting our form of civilization and faith to Japan. It is the fad these days even for rich monk modelling their rich silk robes on cat walks and scoring up government’s freely donated honors, never mind setting aside even some hours to daily meditation in a cemetery or a quiet place in the forest. I don’t know how all this is relevant to railways, except to underscore what I have already said with examples, but discipline, creativity and enterprise has something to do with efficient railways, then I think Japanese excel Sri Lankans by a wide margin. Bullet Train vs Yal Devi :) Would n’t you agree?
Spring Koha / October 14, 2015
Thank You Mr Wijeratne for an excellent exposé of our National Rail Disgrace (and you didn’t even raise the lid on the shocking toilets that beleaguered travellers have to endure, with legs crossed on many a journey).
Just as disgraceful has been the incompetent procession of transport ministers who have done nothing to improve what was once-upon-a-time our pride and joy.
The time is ripe for a root and branch, long-overdue, reorganisation of a service that has for too long been underfunded, under resourced and understaffed.
slumdogmillionaire / October 14, 2015
Lovely article and well done Sir. British govt privatized Railways and despite union protests it worked well. A lot of nations have privatized Railways. Problem in SL is that they are heavily unionized with incompetent uneducated sub educated morons at all levels in what should be a technical professional department.
THANK YOU also to CT for posting the reminder photo of politician and Assembly of God chief pastor Hon. Minister Eran W riding a train during campaign times. He is a very rich very privileged man from Queen’s Road Colombo 3. He is very smart and very privileged. He did this train ride for show and not as a daily occurence. Probably the only time he ever rode a train besides for the Bradby Shield game in Kandy. Same as other Royalist Arrogant rich super rich in fact gentlmen posturing for votes and the low IQ voters falling for that shit.
Privatize it or bring Indian help to improve rail services or bring the military in. Gota did a great job involving the military to bring a good work ethic and discipline. Eran can shout all he wants but Colombo is dirtier since they won in January, and so are the suburbs and getting worse by the day.
Japwatch / October 14, 2015
Slumdogmillionaire – that movie showed the world what India is like besides the advancement India makes n the space industry. Toilets are a right of every citizen of any country. India does not seem to think so.
Maybe you want to change your handle name ;)
Why should you recommend the Indians to improve the Sri Lankan Railway? Britain, France, Germany, Japan or even China can do it. Whoever who has the best interest of Sri Lanka should be invited to do it.
I don’t see why you are attackng Min. Eran. His personal background, location of his residence, religion and his virtues have nothing to do with his effort to improve the SLR. Invite you to take a ride with me around Colombo city- I will show you how your master Gota has destroyed the valueless assets in Colombo alone.
You say the military involvement is necessary? If I had the powers, I would plant military personnel around your residence 24/7. LOL
Hamlet / October 16, 2015
Japwatch, You don’t have to go all the way to Japan, India, Britain, France etc. etc. to improve the Sri Lanka Railways.
Give the top jobs to Tamil Sri Lankans and you will see a vast improvement. As ‘Bo’ stated in a previous Comment:-
“…we the Sinhalese Sri Lankans, are Sinhalese, The Undisciplined. Hardly an enterprising nation but clever in bragging, begging for international aids all the time, false bravado, arrogant and lazy, corrupt, disorganized, oversensitive, heart in their sleeves, backstabbing, jealous and envious lot. We gloat in the pride of history and what our forefathers did 20 centuries ago, but nowadays unable to come to a consensus on anything other than on a Dansela.”
BTW, I am Sinhalese and a Buddhist.
Japwatch / October 16, 2015
Hamlet, appreciate your view.
Those qualities you ascribe about the Sinhalese are existing among all races, nationalities.. In short all human beings. They are exhibited in different ways and so we tend to think that some races are better or worse. This just my view based on my interaction with many different people. I could be wrong.
Tamils building the railway? Mm mm no I don’t think so. A lot of wrong may have been done to them, they are suffering etc etc. but why cannot they build up their trust with the Sinhalese. So let them first build the relationship first and then we can let them build their railway.
Hamlet I like you, so does not matter if you are Sri Lankan or Sinhala or Tamil :)
Hamlet / October 17, 2015
“Hamlet I like you, so does not matter if you are Sri Lankan or Sinhala or Tamil :)”
Thank you Japwatch, but that bit was not for people like you, but the people I meet everyday, and are so biased against anyone who is not their own S/B Kind.
vishvajith / October 14, 2015
A good piece with excellent suggestions by all.
There must be some we can implement immediately. Others like a price rise for the bottom end, must be incremental; otherwise we will have our trains being burnt by the aggrieved travelers.
Again, good piece.
Yudhanjaya Wijeratne / October 14, 2015
Thank you for the feedback. Japan (and Thailand) did indeed come to mind. Japan in particular because their definition of late is “one minute late”. The trains are meticulously on time. Unlike here, where being late means you might as well forget the train and start walking to Colombo.
bo / October 15, 2015
Interesting article and readable. But, Why is this Deputy Minister hiding himself in the cosy comfort of the Guard’s Van? He does not cut ice with me, just because he is wearing a sarong and pretending to be one of us. He should have, if he cared for the public, got into the train at Horapey or Enderamulla with the masses of “plebs” as described by the writer into a common passenger coach and experience the real life of a commuter, handbags and all. The minister in this instance is a fake fact finder, shame on you, as he would not find the real experience of a normal commuter from a Guard Van.
As to funding, SLR would be better off in a private foreign company that knows how to run railways with a government subsidy while keeping fares affordable to the masses. It is an essential service, where average citizen cannot afford massive fare rises, so it is justifiable that the government continues to fund its lion’s share as they do it in France for example.
We also need dedicated politicians that could clean up the system of railways, and not those who had been skimming off public funds through fake contracts in the pretense of developing our railways. I bet that all the moneys stolen by politicians of all ranks from railways development projects if put together would have been sufficient to give us a decent and efficient railway transport system.
In Sri Lanka transport development projects are there for the benefit of crooked politicians, and certainly not for the benefit of the public.
thrishu / October 15, 2015
In the early 1950s railways had been meticulously maintained: lines were level and straight, and where curves were they were precisely angled and outside rail elevated. The lines were clean, no garbage or weeds and ballast were there where they should be well combed and levelled.
Since 1956, railways were in decline, and every time I visited Sri Lanka between then and now, I have seen how they have gradually deteriorated.
Today, rail lines look like “Madu Vel” picked off a mango tree, individual rails are undulating up and down, side to side, hardly level and straight like bent coil wires, lines full of shit and weeds and bushes of all sorts growing between rails, hardly straight, most stations derelict or run down with station masters totally lacking in pride for their stations. I often wondered how trains ever run on them railway lines. Lucky that they run at all, never mind being late.
Both the trains and lines need a good overhaul, and I suggest that we use all our useless and pot bellied politicians as sleepers and ballast for the railways. That is all they are good for.
Thilak Silva / October 15, 2015
Timely article and the topic that “developing train system” is of an urgent need of the country.
Couple of young people died within last two weeks while boarding the trains due to overcrowd situation.
However writing style of the article cannot be considered as a good presentation of facts.
Vanguard / October 15, 2015
Excellent article. I myself have journeyed on the public train in the recent past. The carriages were clean, but very hot with the windows closed. Also this was off peak time so the train was relatively empty.
Our trains are much too crowded during rush hour. What can be done? I suppose the answer is more trains. How this will be funded is the question.
E N Gland / October 15, 2015
Mr Yudhanjaya Wijeratne has written a good article about the Sri Lankan Railways failure. We have to remember that it is a Government run facility for the benefit of the masses who cannot afford to own a private vehicle. It is also a place that has given employment to thousands of people. The SRI LANKAN Railways is a national asset, it should be kept in the folds of the government, do not expect it to make huge profits, the government has to subsidise the system.
Cunning politicians plan Privitisation years ahead of the public coming to know the plans. They get management to run down and get the passengers fed up, later they will spread the idea that if privatised the passengers will get a better service, with clean and new rolling stock, trains running on time, no burden on the government etc. These are all make believe stories to sell the People’s Assets to their cronies.
I have been living in the UK since earl 1970s and at that time the British Rail was a government Service. Like all Public Services it also had its faults, trains were late, often cancelled, carriages were unclean, passengers were jam packed into carriages, BR was also almost similar to SL Railways now. Politicians supporting the Capitalist System had enough evidence to put to the General Public that Privitation will benefit the country.
British Railways were Privatised, we now have new trains, old stations were renovated and looks good, the ticket prices have risen immensely, trains are still late and often cancelled. Passengers are still jam packed in carriages. The Rail Tracks are owned by different Companies, the Trains are owned by different Companies, they all run on the same tracks. If you purchase a ticket, it is valid only on that Companies trains so it is now more of a problem than earlier.
The Share holders of these companies make millions, employees have been reduced for more profits yet the Government has to subsidise the Private Companies with millions of Pounds every year.
Please think before you give your consent to sell off Public Assets, they are a country’s value when foreigners think of your country. Without Public ownership a country is a bankrupt country, just like a person without any savings.
Do not allow Poliicians to dupe you. Get them to sack irresponsible management and put in place qualified men and women with a decent pay and Perks, then the Sri Lankan Railways will be a proud asset.
Billa / October 17, 2015
Britishers gave us many good things like the railways, parliament, tea estates, good postal services, government institutions, education system, GA, DRO, RDO, Village head men, disciplined police force etc., etc.,
After they handed over and left, our cheap greedy foolish politicians destroyed everything one by one, divided the people, discriminated against minorities, created chaos, allowed organized riots, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, wars, terrorized citizen,especially the minorities, created a big gulf between all peaceful communities, and religious groups, set one against the other, created an undisciplined armed forces beast they are unable to control and now the country is in tatters, going through a long and painful existence.
Lankans have proved time and again that they cannot rule the country, citizen or themselves. They have skills but just don’t know how to govern a nation.
Their greed for power, money and perks spoil everything and these guys will never allow the country to prosper or people to have a decent and peaceful life. We hope and pray that our younger generation will do something good.
mevan / October 19, 2015
We have not added a single km to the railway network since the British left us in 1948! Contrast this with India who have added more than 100 km every year on average. Well, we did add a few km of line from Anuradhapura to Mihintale – which no one used and was closed down after one pilgrim season.
At the same time, we have spent billions on roads which become overcrowded even they are completed. We have established not one but two airlines running at unbelievable losses.
We have had a series of Ministers of Transport served up by different governments, but are yet to have a coherent transport policy.
Why is it that the Railways are given this step-motherly treatment by all Governments. Is it because there’s no money in it for the politicians?