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Railways in Sri Lanka

The railways in Sri Lanka, also known as Ceylon Railways, was started in the 1850s with the aim to bring the country together. The first train ran on 27th December 1864, with the construction of the Main Line from Colombo to Ambepussa, 54 kilometers to the east.
Initially the railways were constructed to transport coffee and tea from the hill country to Colombo for export and were for several years, the chief source of earnings. However with increase in population, traffic increased and by the 1960's passenger traffic overtook freight as the main source of business. At present the railway is mainly concerned in transporting passengers to and from Colombo.
The Services offered by Sri Lanka Railway fall mainly into the segments of Long Distance and Intercity Express, Colombo Commuter, Parcel and Mail, Freight and provision of Special Charter Trains.
Long Distance and Intercity Express Service
Inter-city (ICE) Trains offer express service between main cities such as Colombo-Kandy and Colombo-Vavuniya. Accommodation comprises of reserved 2nd Class and Observation Saloon seats.
Fast-Passenger Trains offer semi-express service between Colombo and other major outstations. Accommodation includes unreserved 2nd and 3rd Class seats, reserved 2nd and 3rd Class seats, reserved 1st Class Observation Saloon , and reserved 1st Class Sleeping Berths. Reserved 1st Class Air-conditioned service is offered only on some routes.
Colombo Commuter        
Colombo Commuter Trains offer stopping and semi-express service for commuters traveling to and from Colombo. Accommodation is unreserved 3rd class.
Parcel and mail Service. 
Parcel Service is offered between all stations. Urgent parcels may be dispatched on express and semi-express trains at a slightly higher tariff. Mail is also carried by railway in Fast Passenger Trains running in the Night. This service is offered to the Postal Department.
Freight Service is offered by goods trains running between Colombo and major outstations.
Special Trains       
Special Charter Services are offered using Air-conditioned Train Sets and Special Train Sets for large groups.
Future Plans
Short Term  
  • Improve cleanliness & quality of coachers / stations     
  • Reduce train delays by 25 % & accidents/ derailment 50%                  
  • Establish management structure based on performance evaluation and monitoring process      
  • Enhance the percentage of efficiency     
  • Put in place a methodology for utilization of public funds corresponding to specific services      
  • To make the present negative contribution in to a positive one 
Medium Term
  • Revival of Freight Service
  • Special Value Added train Services
  • Rationalization of fares
  • Commercialization of Assets
  • Attracting more passengers and Freight through image building 
Long Term
  • Expansion of the network
  • Technology “leap-froging”
  • Commercialization

Last Updated on: 17-05-2010

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