by Sanath Nanayakkare
Sri Lanka Railways needs to be converted into an Authority for it to become a viable commercial enterprise, Bandula Gunawardena, Minister of Transport, Highways and Mass Media said on Saturday.
“The structure of a government department is good for administrative purposes, but the structure of an authority is more suitable to provide an efficient service to the public and generate enough revenue to keep a public service commercially afloat in a sustainable manner. Therefore, if the Railway Department can be converted into an Authority, I believe that it will generate enough revenue for the government to run the railway operations across the country at a profit within two years,” he said.
“If Sri Lanka Railways can be converted into an Authority, it can overcome the constraints and limitations it currently has in developing the railways sector. We have to understand that potential and take swift action to produce these progressive outcomes in the sector,” he said.
He said so while participating in an event at Ella Railway station on Saturday, where the minister commissioned several new facilities including a new railway office and a bonded parcel room where passengers can safely leave their valuable belongings.
These facilities were built for the convenience of domestic and foreign travellers as well as other train passengers coming to Ella railway station.
Further speaking the minister said,” Ella Railway Station which attracts a lot of local and foreign tourists is a significant part of the country’s railway service. Upgraded services here will attract even more travellers in the future. At a time the government is focusing on new strategies for development as a country, the development of the railways is severely hindered by the slow mechanism of the department system. If we can turn it into Authority status, I believe that it will not only provide efficient passenger oriented services, it will also generate income for the government as a profit-making entity,”
He added that as an Authority the Ceylon Railways should be able to attract local and foreign investments to develop it into contemporary standards preferred by the discerning travellers of today.
“At a time the government can’t raise capital to do that, public-private partnerships can do the needful to take Sri Lanka’s railway sector to the next level,” he said.