Sri Lanka state railways lose Rs4.7bn in 2009

Chandi Dharmaratne

Apr 18, 2010 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s state-run railways lost 4,768 million rupees in 2009 up 4.7 percent from the a year earlier, which was more than its annual revenues, while carrying lower volumes of cargo and passengers, the latest official data shows. Sri Lanka Railways operated 4,568 million passenger kilometres in 2009, down 2.2 percent from a year earlier, while freight ton kilometres also fell 2.2 percent to 118 million, the Central Bank said in its annual report.

Operating expenses went up 6.8 percent to 8,788 million rupees from 8,225 million rupees a year earlier. Its operating expenses are more than double the revenue.

Revenues rose 9.5 percent to 4,020 million from 3,671 million.

The utility suffers from a vicious circle of chronic under-pricing by politicians to win votes including deeply discounted fares to state workers, which has led to a decline in service standards and a public deserting rail for buses.

Its operational losses do not include depreciation of rolling stock. The government spends billions of rupees in people’s money each year buying up rolling stock and building track.

Though roads are also built by public money, the state earns billions of rupees from taxes on motor cars and petrol.