I am writing this letter just in case the idea of privatizing trains
as suggested by M. Bertie Perera from Australia in the media on March 14
gets into the head of a SLFP politician whose brain capacity has been
displayed by the SLFP proposals they have made for the new constitution.
A proper answer to Mr. Perera was given by Dr. K.A. Silva of
Melbourne in the media on March 17. I will add a few more points but
before that let me point out the part played by the UNP in the
destruction of our railways.
The Railway System in Sri Lanka was destroyed by the UNP by
withholding funds for the maintenance of the track so that the lorries
of their cronies could take over the transportation of goods that was
very cheaply and efficiently done using 13 ton four wheel wagons. Where
are the 13 ton wagons now? The UNP would have even sold them for scrap.
Trains have been in operation in many advanced countries in the world
for may be over 200 years. We could learn many lessons by observing the
success or failure of how trains are operated in various countries.
The most successful and the most efficient railway system in the
world is the European railway system that coordinates trains from all
European countries. Such attention, dedication and care can only be done
by Governments with tax payersâ money to provide an affordable service.
All tracks in Europe are being updated to 350 km/hr, so that
travelling from city centre to city centre would take much less overall
time and at the same time eliminate the local air traffic which is much
more costly to operate.
A few years ago when they laid the Inter City rail track in Spain in
the mountain region, they chose the location and elevation of the
starting point and the location and elevation of the destination point
many kilometres away.
They then fixed the centreline of the twin track tunnel in one
straight line and tunnelled through until they emerged at a hill slope.
From there they built a viaduct to the next hill and so on. So it is
one straight line all the way. No private company could invest that kind
of money and earn a profit. Even before the super speed trains began
running, all trains in Europe have been built as a service to the people
from their tax money.
In Japan when the railway system shuts down at night, an army of
track maintenance workers descend on the track.
A highly computerized locomotive runs in front of a maintenance
vehicle relaying the exact locations of faults that come out as computer
output in printed form in the maintenance vehicle.
The maintenance vehicle and the army of people on the track rectify
all the errors and at a certain time early in the morning the track is
certified safe for running for the next number of hours. A private
company cannot do it and will not do it with that care to ensure safety.
In true UNP style the private sector bought over the British railways
for a song and a half. Soon after there were a series of grave accidents
in which many people were killed. So that the British railways is now
again a subsidized railway.
The motor car industry has bought up all controls not only in America
but also in Canada. Between Niagara Falls and Toronto, one train leaves
Niagara Falls to Toronto at mid morning and returns at mid afternoon to
Niagara Falls while there is an 8 lane expressway just next to the rail
track all the way to Toronto. The Trans Canadian Railway is being run
down and soon it will be destroyed.
Heathrow Airport in London handles a much bigger load than Katunayake
but practically all the passengers use the underground train. Earlier
they were using the six lane Motorway M4 but not after the underground
railway was extended to the terminal building itself of the airport.
The four lane Katunayake expressway when built will shut down within
a few months of its opening and people will use the old road because it
would be more reliable.
L. JAYASOORIYA -
ATTENTION of the SSP Traffic Colombo, and particularly in Borella, is
drawn to the chaotic settings of colour light traffic signals at the
Borella junction which paves access to four main arteries viz the
Baseline Road (either side), Maradana Road, Ward Place and Dr. N. M.
Perera Mawatha (Cotta Road).
This is seen as a main contributor incessantly creating a major
traffic block along the Cotta Road side (Dr. N. M. Perera Mawatha) with
buses and other vehicles parading into multiple of lines extending over
500 yards, at any given time, up to Trickle Road.
In between such an disarray, the three -wheeler maniacs and motor
cyclists try to assume cockroache attitude in creeping in and out of
every little space in between motor cars.
This not only penalises the motorists but put them into a rigorous
âpatience-testingâ exercise having to wait biting their nails till
traffic lights change to green.
It is even made worse at times when a traffic police officer
overrides green lights to give priority mainly to Baseline Road traffic
according to his own judgment! Should only the Baseline Road at this
junction be treated as important?
The whole exercise is a waste of time for motorists who get trapped
in this scenario, waste of fuel and contributing more towards pollution
which is already at its peak.
It is, therefore, vitally important that some remedial action be
taken to ease off the traffic congestion at Cotta Road side traffic
Perhaps a well timed automated digital system similar to that which
is now in operation in Borella at Devi Balika round-about giving a
minute to every road movement will be the only solution to solve this
grave traffic congestion.
Dr. TILAK S. FERNANDO -
According to press reports the Mayor of Colombo and his team propose
to increase CMC rates and taxes by about 15 to 25 per cent as we learn.
If this is really on the cards, rate payers of Colombo must rally round
These rates-taxes have been increasing enormously in the past two
decades without a corresponding better quality service to tax payers.
During previous years water was provided as part of the Rates-Taxes
package. Now the citizens of Colombo are forced to pay ever increasing
water charges by another State agency. Most roads in Colombo are in poor
Pavements in many areas e.g. opposite Temple Trees/Oberoi Hotel is
broken and uneven posing a threat to commuters. Most of the City of
Colombo is ill-lit and serves lawless elements more than ordinary
There are hardly any neatly-kept public conveniences in many parts of
Colombo frequented by the people e.g. the General Hospital area. The
Galle Face has, at last, been provided with a rudimentary facility.
The performance of the Mayor, Municipal Commissioner and his team has
been hardly satisfactory. Filthy, ill-smelling, oozing garbage mountains
dot most parts of Colombo streets greeting visitors - local and foreign.
What more! In spite of regular complaints to several Mayors one cannot
but fail to see almost opposite âTemple Treesâ in Galle Road garbage
being piled up.
A garbage mountain of about 200 feet high at Madampitiya Road in
Colombo North - almost a permanent feature for years now - must have by
now contaminated hundreds of poor shanty dwellers and their children.
In many other areas pieces of dirty paper, plastic bags, food
packets, Thambili shells are the constant companions this CMC ruling set
is able to present the people with.
In most parts of Colombo road users have no alternative but to step
on garbage and dirty water that spill across the road.
The show piece of Colombo - Vihara Maha Devi Park (formerly Victoria
Park) is littered with dirty paper, plastic bags and other junk.
Complaints made to the Mayor, the Commissioner and just about every
official of note in the CMC - by prominent citizens who use the Park for
their walks - have only fallen on deaf ears.
As a rate payer, we ask this Mayor and his team as well the Municipal
Commissioner âwhat have you done in the past few years to justify the
rates you are exacting from us so far?â
Leave alone the unfair request for increases now talked of, I am
afraid we are not even getting fair service to the taxes we now pay.
Other than regularly complaining the infra-structure for the City of
Colombo was built for a much smaller population in the 1920s the Mayor
and the CMC management team have done little to justify the taxes they
exact from Colombo citizens.
We understabd substantial financial assistance is also made available
to the CMC by the Government.
K. ARVIND -