‘Railway should focus on small-scale investments’ | Sunday Observer

‘Railway should focus on small-scale investments’

The Sri Lanka Railways (SLR) should focus on small-scale investments and not necessarily large investments to improve the quality of service, said C&S Development Company Managing Director Dr Prianka Seneviratne, delivering the L.S. de Silva memorial lecture organized by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).

“This is how it happens in India where rail transportation is developed through short-term measures to boost the quality of service, freight and wagons,” Seneviratne said.

He said illegal land acquisition along the railway lines is a major impediment to expand rail transportation in Sri Lanka. All plans to expand the service will be delayed and would cost heavily if encroachments take place, and would also lead to floods and other environmental disasters.

“The strength of the SLR is that it has a dedicated captive market. There are passengers who have been using rail transportation for over three decades, prefer it over road transportation,” Seneviratne said.

A transport expert addressing the seminar, revealed that around 18 percent of the land in Colombo is owned by SLR and most of it is used for storage which is non-productive for the development of rail transport.

He said the Sri Lanka Railways has immense potential for growth. However, the potential is not being harnessed to develop the sector. In many other countries, the railway serves several purposes such having shopping malls and recreational facilities that make passengers more comfortable.

Rail transportation experts said that around 65 percent of the trains in Sri Lanka do not operate on time and as a result, the loss of valuable man-hours to the economy is colossal. It was revealed that around 32 percent of the trains is delayed by around 60 minutes. The operating loss last year was around Rs. 6.8 billion which, however, is a drop compared to the previous year’s loss of around Rs. 7.7 billion.

To reduce operating losses incurred by the railways, they proposed the increasing of freight rates to cover operating cost and to improve the quality of service and be a preferred transportation mode in the country.

Experts said there has to be a vision and a solid plan to develop rail transport as found in Britain and India. The British government plans to invest Sterling Pounds 48 billion in the next five years for the development of the rail transportation sector in that country.