During a recent Cabinet decision announcement press conference at the Government Information Department, Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana, the Cabinet Spokesman and Minister of Transport, Highways, and Mass Media, emphasized the urgent need for a comprehensive overhaul of the Railways Department in terms of its structure, quality, and quantity. The Minister envisions transforming the railway service into the most beneficial, convenient, and developed mode of transportation in the future.
To address the pressing issues within the Railways Department, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the formation of a committee tasked with proposing appropriate solutions for the department’s restructuring.
In his address, Minister Gunawardhana expressed concern over the discomfort faced by thousands of commuters due to minor issues, emphasizing that the railways play a crucial role as the primary means of public transport for both public and private sector workers. The persistent strikes have led to inconveniences, and there has been growing public sentiment favoring the privatization of the railways.
The Minister highlighted his efforts to engage with all Railway Unions and encouraged resolving problems through consensus at various levels, from the institution to the ministry and government.
Amidst these challenges, there is a positive development with the introduction of a new tourist train to Jaffna in August and planned renovation work on the railway line from Anuradhapura to Mahawa, set to commence in January 2024.
Addressing issues of fraud, theft, and corruption within the department, Minister Gunawardhana informed the Criminal Investigation Department about irregularities committed by individuals claiming to be leaders of certain trade unions in the Railway Department. A comprehensive national-level criminal investigation is underway, focusing on crimes related to railway tracks theft, obtaining foreign contracts, and the illegal acquisition of contractors’ checks. The scale of these offenses demands stringent action against those involved in corrupt activities.
The Minister firmly asserted that combating corruption is a top priority in the pursuit of a revitalized and efficient railway system for the benefit of all Sri Lankans.