Sri Lanka railways loses Rs7.5bn in 2017, exceeds revenues

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Railways, a heavily unionised state-run agency had lost 7.6 billion rupees in 2017, which is more than the total revenue earned during the year, which also fell due to strikes, official data showed.

The operating loss of 7,604 million rupees exceeded total revenues of 6,477 million rupees, which fell 2.2 percent.

Revenues had fallen amid two strikes, the central bank said.

Operating expenditure had risen 5.1 percent 14.1 billion rupees.

With capital expenditure total expenditure was 27 billion rupees in 2017, down 7.3 percent from a year earlier, with an upgrade in the northern railway line being completed.

Railways workers are also pensionable, a burden on the people which is not captured by data.

"The rail transportation system in Sri Lanka has tremendous potential to enhance the interconnectedness between different regions economically and efficiently, while reducing emissions, energy consumption as well as productivity losses due to road traffic congestion," the central bank said.

"However, the lack of timely investment in fleet replacement and lack of technology usage by the SLR have resulted in over-crowding of trains and delays, reducing the reliability of the railway transport system.

"Further, frequent trade union actions which disrupt the smooth functioning of the service, and low passenger fares and goods transport tariffs worsen the financial viability of the SLR, and thereby reduce the available funds for future investment."

Analysts say after building the rails, tax payers also have to fund the locomotives and carriages as well as 7.0 billion rupees operating losses.





In road transport by contrast, vehicle owners stand on their own feet and finance the roads and help government revenues generally.

Massive taxes in excess of 200 percent in the form of import and excise are paid by people who buy motor, cycles, three wheelers and cars, bringing revenues to pay for road building and maintenance analysts say.

In 2017, excise duties on motor vehicles alone was 189.7 billion rupees.

Vehicle users also pay taxes on petrol, contributing to the general running of government services, though diesel users pay less.

Vehicle users also pay annual road tax to help provincial councils, a tax on an annual emission test, giving more money to build and maintain roads. (Colombo/May21/2018)

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