SRI LANKAN Transport Minister Felix Perera announced at the end of May that the newly-elected government had decided to abolish the Sri Lanka Railway Authority set up by the previous administration and transfer its powers back to a revitalised Railways Department.

Although the legislation creating SLRA was approved in 1993, the authority was only vested on July 23 last year (RG 9.03 p526). It was intended to oversee a revival of the island’s rail network, taking charge of planning and asset ownership, whilst leaving SLR free to operate train services day-to-day.

According to Perera, the resulting bureaucratic structure was a ’burden on the state’ costing Rs350m a month. His priority is to transform the railways into a ’viable institution’ able to handle a growing demand for freight and passenger services.

SLR has already identified a need for up to 1000 passenger coaches, as it has not ordered any new stock since 1992. Pereira recently met Canadian High Commissioner Valerie Raymond to discuss a proposal for Bombardier to supply 200 vehicles as part of an export development programme, with the rest to be built locally under a technology transfer agreement.