The Sunday Leader

Railway Unions Cry Foul

By Nirmala Kannangara

Railway employees question why the northern railway line contract was given to India when Railway Department workers could have carried out the job for a lesser rate. The contract for the 56 km long northern railway stretch from Palai to Jaffna was given to Indian Rites and Indian Railways Construction Company (IRCON)  by Sri Lanka Railways (SLR) which cost the country a staggering sum of Rs.19,040 million. Secretary All Ceylon Railway Employees General Union, S.P. Vithanage accused SLR of offering the contract to Indians when the railway employees would have completed this 56km stretch for Rs.5040 million.
“Indian Rites and IRCON have charged Rs. 340 million for one kilo metre and their total charge for the 56km was Rs.19,040 million. When plans were afoot to offer the contract to the Indian companies, railway employees including the engineers and foremen estimated the cost and our cost for one kilo metre was Rs. 90 million. Although the Indian charges were Rs. 250 million, lot more than our charges, the SLR offered the contract to the Indians for an unknown reason,” Vithanage alleged.

According to Vithanage, these amounts include the price of sleepers, railway tracks and metal pieces.

“The Indian companies brought down the sleepers, the iron tracks and the metal pieces from India. One Indian sleeper costs Sri Lankan Rs.8,000 but we would have supplied a quality sleeper at Rs.4,500. The Indian sleepers are substandard and after the northern railway line was opened on October 13, up to now more than 10,000 sleepers have broken – which shows their quality. The sleepers made by the Sri Lanka Engineering Corporation have a 50-year guarantee period,” Vithanage said.

Accusing the Railway Department of offering the contract to the Indians claiming they have expertise, Vithanage said, it was the retired Sri Lankan Railway Engineers and Foremen that gave the expertise to the Indians for constructing the Palai –Jaffna railway track.

“If we were offered the contract, the Railway Department could have saved Rs.14,000 million. We would have used our own quality sleepers, metal pieces and the quality British iron for the track imported from British Iron Works, United Kingdom. We would have employed our own expertise for a lesser price and most importantly our prices included the cost of constructing railway stations as well,” Vithanage added.

According to Vithanage, although the Indians charged a staggering sum of Rs.340 million for one km, they have failed to construct the railway pavilion. “There are 12 railway stations from Palai to Jaffna and other than the three main railway stations at Jaffna, Chavakachcheri and Kodikamam, none of the other nine stations have been constructed. We were told how the commuters had to wait in heavy rains during the past rainy days, as there was no building or even a tent for them to stay under. Even there are no water connections to any of these nine railway stations and the commuters are facing difficulty when they want to use the wash rooms,” Vithanage alleged. According to Vithanage, after the 2004 tsunami, Indian Rites Company wanted Rs.1000 million to construct the 88km southern railway tract which they promised to complete in one year, but the SLR employees were able to complete the southern railway track within 57 days. “Although the Indians wanted Rs.1000 million for the construction we were able to construct the railway line for Rs. 450 million within 57 days. If the SLR could rely on its own employees to construct the southern railway line at a cheaper rate, why couldn’t they offer us the northern railway work, too” Vithanage queried.

Neither Transport Minister Kumara Welgama nor General Manager Railways Mr. Amaratunge was available for a comment


10 Comments for “Railway Unions Cry Foul”

  1. timtim

    minister pocket gets 50% commission on the contract value

  2. daya weerasinghe

    No comments…. somebody has made a lots of money..!

  3. Len

    Few important reason for giving away the contract. Back handers, Greasing the palm, You scratch my back, Payment for Mr 10% or what ever the going rate. Enough said.

  4. Rabok

    Big talk – if it was given to Railway Dept – we could have seen the finish of railway line after 100 years minimum – Vithanage – do not talk bull – Minister do not hide – open the mouth and talk about the truth – I have personally seen how the employees of Railway Department workshops are working – lazy / use for nothing idiots (very few real workers)

  5. I think it is right to offer the contract for Indian company otherwise these Srilankan railway workers are lazy and would not have finish it for at least another 5 years. I am living next to Negombo railway line and have seen how they work. Useless and they work only few hours a day and they will strike for everything and they will keep demanding and put government in trouble.

  6. mike

    Where were you and your Union when the contract was being awarded or discussed . You CAN’T tell us you were not aware of it ? Even though the government awarded the contract there were still a lot of work to be done by the SLR on this project ( As a support function)

    Grow up , actions speak louder than words . Offer your services to the southern extension, If the government still insists , then you can really the unions and also the public support . Do not shoot yourself in the foot , Typical Sri Lankan Mentality of complaining .

  7. Manuelpillai

    Is there an answer from the government side to this all important matter?

  8. Piranha

    I would like to ask Vithanage why no tamils were employes in the construction of the railway line. Like many other development work undertaken in the northern province only Sinhala workers were employed. Economically the northern workers have been very badly affected.

    Reconciliation? What reconciliation?

  9. Ranmal

    What more facts do you need to prove the gravity of corruption

  10. sukirichuti

    If what is said above is true, it is a crime to waste public funds in this manner. I think it is the right of us to ask the Minister of Transport and the General Manager of CGR to give an explanation for this.

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