Over 60-pct of Sri Lanka’s state trains late; long distance delays 80-pct

ECONOMYNEXT – Over 61 percent of trains were late in 2015, with nearly 80 percent of long distance and intercity journeys were also behind schedule, as state-run Sri Lanka railways struggled with 30-year old locomotives and speed restrictions despite tens of billions of rupees tax payer money being spent, data show.

About 44.4 percent of suburban trains operated were on time and another 17.9 percent were less than ten minutes late.

But out of 18,247 long distance and intercity trains operated in 2015, only 20.2 percent were on time, with another 10.4 percent less than 10 minutes late, a railway control report showed.

About 15 percent of long distance trains were over one hour late, and 23.6 percent were delayed by over half an hour.

Sri Lanka railways needed 80 locomotives, and 80 diesel multiple units for a ‘satisfactory service’ and had 72 engines and 78 DMUs. Only 63 engines and 67 power sets were in use.

About 65 percent of the locomotives were between 30 to 35 years old, control report and spares were no longer available from the manufacturers, the control report said.

"Since it is difficult to supply spare parts for some locomotives from the mother company, a problematic status has… arisen," the report said.

In 2015, there had been 511 engine failures, up from 503 in 2015, but down from 660 in 2012.

The department had carried out 12,488 minor repairs and 1377 major repairs on rolling stock.

As a result servicing costs of old equipment was high including overtime.

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Tax payers had spent 44.8 billion rupees on rail in 2015, down from 51 billion rupees in 2014. There have been large investments in rail to re-built track in the former war zones in the North and East.

Recurrent spending was 14.04 billion rupees in 2015, slightly down from 14.8 billion rupees as diesel prices fell. Spending on fuel was 3.55 billion rupees, down from 4.18 billion in 2014.

The railways spent 1,998 million rupees on repairing rolling stock.

Salaries and wages went up to 8.1 billion rupees from 6.2 billion rupees in 2014 and employees went up to 17,643 from 16,893.

There had been allegations that successive administrations stuffed Sri Lanka Railways with temporary who singed attendance in Colombo and idled their time or went to work elsewhere. Politically connected grassroots activists in Colombo have the railway identify cards.

However the railway control report said there was a severe shortage of skilled staff for essential maintenance and operations leading to high overtime payments.

In 2015 revenue rose to 5.9 billion rupees from 6.3 billion rupees with passenger revenue rising 4 percent to 5.1 billion rupees.

The bulk of the money came from ordinary ticket holders who paid 4.1 billion rupees, while taking 66 million rides.

But season ticket holders who also took 66 million rides or half the total, only paid 1.0 billion rupees.

Sri Lanka railways was estimated to carry about 5 percent of the passenger traffic and 1 percent of freight in the country.

While season ticket holders were getting a virtual free ride Sri Lanka’s new vehicle buyers including three wheeler and motor cycle owners were estimated to have paid 240 billion rupees in taxes last year which can be used to maintain roads and bridges.

Petrol vehicle owners also pay high ratios of taxes on petrol. About 50 percent of the retail price of a litre of petrol is tax. (Colombo/Sept27/2016)
 

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