The recently purchased Chinese railway carriages appear to be running more into trouble than running on the tracks with questions being asked about their suitability for our country. One of the main issues among a range of technical problems is the gap between the carriages and the platform making it difficult for passengers to board the trains.
Twenty five carriages have already been imported from a consignment of 100 carriages ordered from China, with the rest due to arrive before the end of the year. Some of the carriages were attached to the Ruhunu Kumari. According to the All Ceylon Railway Employees’ Union General Secretary, Sumathipala Manawadu, it took almost two months since the carriages arrived for them to be put into use because the carriage couplings could not be linked to the existing locomotives.
“The locomotives had to be modified to suit the air-brake system found in the new carriages, which took time”, he said and added that the same would have to be done with regard to the rest of the carriages as well. Sri Lanka Railway caters to about 350,000 commuters a day and is facing a severe dearth of carriages and locomotives. Commuters complain that cancellation of trains, long delays and break downs have increased over the past few years. The trains are often overcrowded especially in areas in and around Colombo, Mr. Manawadu said.
“The lack of engines and the continuous use of the existing ones have resulted in authorities not being able to refurbish the old engines as and when required,” he said. One of the problems that has been observed in the new carriages is that three is a sizeable gap between the train and the platform causing difficulty for travelers to board the trains.
Mr. Manawadu charges that authorities had not taken into account issues such as the suitability of the carriages, the availability of necessary engines and their effectiveness. He also said that the new carriages would not be used for upcountry travel as they have a different brake system than what is required. He also claimed that a sufficient number of ‘brake-vans’ had not been purchased. One train needs two ‘brake -vans’, and only two had been purchased with this batch of carriages. “What we now have are new compartments attached to old engines,” he said.
Mr. Manawadu said discussions were underway to purchase power-sets. However, Sri Lanka Railway General Manager, Lalithasiri Gunaruwan assured that there was no problem with regard to the 25 carriages that begun operations in late October. He said certain modifications were necessary, but it was not a serious issue.
“As far as I know the new carriages have proved effective,”he said. An agreement was signed between Sri Lanka Railway Department and the China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC) early this year, whereby the CMC was to provide 100 rail carriages to Sri Lanka by the end of this year. The carriages were purchased at a cost of Rs. 22 million each.
Source: The Sunday Times