Train Trouble

July 27, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s railway needs to raise fares and train travellers must be prepared to pay more to reduce losses and make the state-owned service viable, experts said. This would ensure enough traffic so the train services could be run profitably, perhaps with private sector investment.

The same approach could be followed in rebuilding the northern railway line which was destroyed during the 30-year ethnic war that ended in May, he said.

Both experts said freight transport also can be profitable for the railway although there was a need to ensure timely delivery.

Gunaruwan said the problem was a shortage of locomotives as engines are now taken from goods trains to pull passenger trains during peak hours, resulting in delays in freight movements. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan, former general manager of Sri Lanka Railways, said the trains transport a large number of office workers to the capital Colombo and back during peak hours but that fares remain low.

The railway transports 200,000 office workers into Colombo daily and without it there would more traffic on roads, adding to existing congestion and delays.

The current fares charged by the railway wor