Turntable

May 02, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s state-run railway needs to charge higher fares and compete with road transport on a level playing field in order to avoid losses, its general manager Lalithasiri Gunaruwan said. He said he was trying to turnaround Sri Lanka Railways through changes in fares and better management.

The department has recommended a fare hike but it depends on government policy, he said.

Gunaruwan said the rate per passenger kilometre charged by the railway was less than that charged by the private and public bus services.

“It means we’re transporting people at a much lower fare than buses,” Gunaruwan told LBO in an interview at the opening of a workshop to repair goods wagons.

He also noted that bus operators do not have to pay for the maintenance of transport infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and signals which cost is borne by different government departments.

“For buses, the use of infrastructure is free of charge,” Gunaruwan said.

“But the railway, despite its fares being one-fourth of bus fares, has to maintain our own tracks, bridges, tunnels, signals – the economics are different.”

He said critics who consider the loss-making railway service a burden