Our trains and rail system are going backwards, not forwards

By Wijaya Godakumbura, Nawala

Over the past 50 years, various services in our country have shown varying degrees of improvement.
However, the biggest disappointment, no doubt, is our railway system. Thousands of people depend on trains to get around every day, but they are getting a poor deal. Our trains seem to be going backwards, not forwards. Lack of money may be one problem, but I also feel there is a lack of common sense, ideas and resolve. It may be that our railways officials have no idea what the poor railway commuters go through every day.

Recently, I travelled to Trincomalee by train, and I had a first-class sleeping berth. It was acceptable. There was water in the toilet – not in the taps, but dripping from the ceiling. The stench was awful, and the toilet bowl was black. Please note that this was a first-class berth!

A “stick no bills” sign was painted on the walls of the carriages. Actually, it would be a good thing if the carriages had bills. The authorities could charge for advertising and use the money to clean up the carriages and paint the compartments and scrub and improve the toilets.

After that experience, I decided never to travel by train again unless there was some improvement. The train left the Colombo Fort Railway Station 40 minutes late. In most other countries, trains leave on time.
The country’s main railway station in the Fort, has not seen a coat of paint for decades. The tracks at various railway stations are littered with garbage, such as banana skins, “siri-siri” bags and empty bottles. There are no garbage bins at the Fort station or at any of the other stations.

The railway authorities could request various companies to donate plastic garbage bins, bearing their logos, names and messages, to be installed at railway stations. Gradually, commuters will get used to using these garbage bins.

If the print and electronic media, especially the state-owned media, ran regular “Keep the City Clean” campaigns to raise public awareness of the importance of hygiene and public cleanliness, the city would be rid of the rubbish heaps in three months.

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