Rail service deteriorates day by day despite IRCON upgrading works
Sri Lanka’s Rail transport service is deteriorating day by day despite efforts to repair and rebuild railway lines country wide with the involvement of IRCON International, a fully owned company of the Indian Government, in upgrading railway lines.
Upgrading crucial lines of Sri Lanka’s railway system could cost the Government up to US $4.5 billion but the move will provide a significant impetus to economic growth, a railway expert said.
No daily maintenance, no dollar for spare parts 60-70 trains a day are cancelled, train service delays, derailments and timetable changes are all due to financial crunch, General Secretary of All Sri Lanka Railway Employees General Employees Union and co-convener of Railway Union Alliance S. B. Vithanage said.
He said that there is informal management and inefficiency in the department and that railway tracks should be maintained daily and now due to lack of proper maintenance train derailments occur frequently.
He said that due to the lack of dollars required for the importation of the spare parts and the maintenance of the train carriages, the railway is now in a very bad condition and because of this 60 or 70 trains are running a day is canceled.
Stating that 9,000 posts are unfilled in various sections of the railway service, Vithanage said another 700 will retire by December 31, 2022 and the number of vacancies will increase by January 1, 2023.
Apart from this, he said that due to lack of tools like shoes, pen roll, clips etc. required for railways, the railway tracks are dilapidated day by day.
He noted that the speed of the coastal train has been reduced by 30 to 40 km per hour due to maintenance crisis as planned by Indian IRCON.
IRCON International, a fully owned company of the Indian Government, is on the verge of marking 12 year in Sri Lanka, having completed upgrading to the tsunami railway line and the much publicised northern railway link.
Similar upgrades to the railway lines to Kandy, Omanthai and Trincomalee would increase connectivity and fast track transport at a cheaper cost to the country, opined IRCON Project Manager in Sri Lanka S.L Gupta.
India’s state-run IRCON will begin a 33 billion rupee (about 90 million dollars) upgrade of section rail track to the northern city of Jaffna from January 05, Transport Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.
The upgrade from Maho to Omanthai in Vavuniya will see the track capable of running trains at speeds of up to 100 kilometres an hour.
The track from Omanthai to Jaffna was previously upgraded under an Indian credit line.The travel time from Colombo to Jaffna will be cut by about an hour after the upgrade. The track will be closed for five months from January five.
Sri Lanka Railways will operate 5 trains to Anuradhapura daily and busses will be provided by state-run Ceylon Transport Board and other operators to carry passengers to Jaffna.The section of the track has 213 culverts and 90 bridges an IRCON official said.
The track now has speed restrictions on 27 locations where the train can be run at 10 to 40 kilometres an hour. After the upgrade the minimum speed will be 70 kmph.
The track will be re-built from the bottom up, with new ballast and welded tracks, which will allow for fast smooth travel without the current ‘jerks’.