Business Times

Sri Lanka Railways can be turned around if there is political will

By Quintus Perera

Sri Lanka Railways (SLR) has deteriorated so much due to politicization in the decision-making process that according to 2008 figures, recurrent expenditure was a staggering Rs 8 billion while total revenue was below Rs 2 billion with the situation worsening in 2009 and 2010, according to a SLR engineer.
These remarks were made by Keerthi K Hewavithana, Engineer Headquarters, SLR making the D B Rampala Memorial Lecture 2010 – 100th Birth Anniversary held in Colombo recently. He was speaking on “Successful Turnaround of Indian Railways (IR) and lessons Relevant for Sri Lanka Railways”.

He said that if SLR is provided with the correct political leadership it could as in the case of Indian Railways be turned around and would then be empowered just like IR. Also if SLR is allowed to make decisions based on scientific and business fundamenals, then this cuntry will surprise the world through a faster than expected turnaround, he added.

Mr Hewavithana said that the other critical problems faced by SLR are losing its market share in the profitable freight business; lack of flexibility in pricing and unrealistic pricing methods; high cost of internally sourced products and services; investment in projects that do not yield a return; operating expenses much higher than gross revenue (greater than 100% operating ratio) and lack of market orientation.

He said the SLR has efficiency and capabilities such as when it repaired and restored the coastal lines, bridges and signal systems in record time after the tsunami and put trains on track on full steam with the assistance of other state engineering institutions.

Mr Hewavithana pointed out that this was completed by SLR at a fraction of the estimates given by foreign companies and the time taken was only a few months compared to years that were required by foreign companies. However he noted, “unfortunately our hopes for a SLR turnaround were only shortlived.”

He said that the current economic growth could provide a buoyancy for the transport sector in Sri Lanka and the operations could be compared to one of the 16 zones in IR and SLR could be modeled accordingly in a profitable manner.

He said that SLR has a strong asset base that could be developed through public-private partnerships (PPP) and outsourcing could be introduced just like IR to replace internal products and services that are loss makers. Long haul lines could be operated in a more productive manner and round the clock. SLR could attract freight with a network of storage facilities and a cold chain and the increase in the tourist arrivals could provide a greater opportunity.

Mr Hewavithana said that the railway is two to five times efficient and electrification would create greater synergies and make travel greener and healthier. Further the railway uses two to three times less land mass for each passenger transported and saves previous urban and cleared land.

He said that SLR could be used to a great advantage in the economic boom if they could convert abilities into capabilities; knowledge and experience into tangible results, to followers to become leaders; weaknesses into strengths and threats into opportuities that would put Sri Lankan railways into a sustainable public utility.

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Other Business Times Articles
Pension scheme discussion on Tuesday
Sri Lankan worker arrested in US over insider trading charges
Shangri-La leisure project kicks off in 2011
D.R. Wijewardena Mw to be Colombo’s leisure hub
World Bank assistance may double to Sri Lanka
Inflation up, says Central Bank
Hayleys chairman gets five more years
Two bankers and an old ‘Austin’ car
Comment - Imported coconuts, camel milk and ostrich eggs
Feature - Skill, luck and reversion to the mean
Feature - Our skies are safe
Sri Lanka welcomes 600,000th tourist
PCH enters mobile phone business
IMF says pleased with Lankan economic progress
Sri Lanka Railways can be turned around if there is political will
Weli moves out as Transparency Int. Executive Director
Rothschild Tea estate wins top entrepreneur award in Central Province
First 'Etisalat Business Edge' forum for SMEs held
SLT receives two prestigious awards for its 2009 Annual Report
Belgian investors upbeat following visit to Sri Lanka
Nestlé provides over 14,000 people across Sri Lanka with clean drinking water
Sri Lanka company becomes first global tea firm to be certified CarbonNeutralEswaran Brothers
WB Managing Director visits Sri Lanka
SL retail banking becoming more like hospitality
BellVantage appointed as Siemens Enterprise communications partner in Sri Lanka
Book - Central Bank of Sri Lanka Retrospect 1950 - 2010
Microsoft to guide Sri Lanka towards cloud computing
Bairaha to build new state-of-the-art chicken farm
Ceramics sector urges Govt. to reconsider proposed electricity tariff
Sri Lanka tourism with a local touch
Rs 5000 commemorative coin from Central Bank
Potential Sri Lankan economic boom draws Malaysian investors
Singer launches Whirlpool refrigerators
Asian wage growth remains positive despite economic crisis: ILO
Commercial Bank launches Chip Card with VISA
Cement Corp. to start work on KKS Harbour View hotel
Famous city landmark – the St. John Fish Market – moves to Peliyagoda
ICT entrepreneur offers tips to STBC members
Call for good corporate governance in Sri Lanka
Swadeshi launches ‘Safeplus’, effective solution to a germ free life
Novartis wins Alcon with cash sweetener
Mphasis exceeds a billion dollar in revenues
‘Adrenalin’ Human Capital Alignment software now in Sri Lanka
EFutures develops online 'Wish List' for Mattel
TRC to share profit on satellite
SLIC to shed some stakes to fund mega state projects
“Payment Guaranteed Cheque” from Sampath Bank


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2010 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution