April 10, 2012 (LBO) - Losses at Sri Lanka's state-run railway rose in 2011 despite the acquisition of more rolling stock and increased carriage of passengers and goods, the central bank said.Passenger kilometreage increased by four percent from the year before despite a stretch of coastal railway line between Aluthgama and Galle being closed for rail track upgrading.
The goods kilometreage increased by eight percent indicating increased use of the railway for oil transportation, the bank said in its annual report for 2011.
While total revenue of Sri Lanka Railways (SLR) increased by 5.4 percent to 4.2 billion rupees, operating expenditure increased by 15.4 percent to 8.3 billion rupees.
This led to an increase in operating losses to 4.1 billion rupees in 2011 from a loss of 3.2 billion rupees in 2010, the report said.
"SLR has the potential to significantly increase its contribution to passenger and goods transportation in the country," it said.
At present, SLR’s contribution to passenger and freight transportation remains as low as five percent and one percent, the central bank said.
"In order to improve the coverage and to serve the rising demand for transportation of the growing economy, the railway system needs to be modernised while improving efficiency and reliability of the service delivery."
The central bank noted that while road transportation is the favoured mode of transportation in Sri Lanka, it is often subject to heavy traffic congestion, which leads to a "substantial" loss of productive man-hours and high fuel usage.
The report said SLR has taken several measures to strengthen rail transportation during 2011 with five M9 engines being refurbished and added to the fleet.
SLR also imported nine power sets from India and placed orders to import another 13 power sets from China.
To improve passenger services, new office trains to Colombo from adjacent suburban areas were added, along with intercity express trains daily from outlying towns.
A new luxury train service operated by the private sector on a revenue sharing basis was also introduced in 2011 along with seat reservations for intercity trains through mobile phones.