Train Ticket Shortage adds to Transport Woes

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With the road-transportation constrains reaching unprecedented levels due to the ongoing fuel crisis, a high demand has been created for travel by train. People are now travelling on foot board and the roof of over-crowded trains, very dangerously, risking their lives. With the sudden influx of train passengers, it has now been brought to light that the Railway Department is faced with a problem of issuing tickets.

Risk of a shortage of train tickets

According to the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Station Masters’ Union (SLSMU), Kasun Chamara, in its 158-year history, people have never been tempted to travel by train like ever before, resulting in a marked increase in income of the railway department by 150 percent.

Nonetheless, with the significant increase in passengers and the corresponding increase in issuance of train tickets, many stations are running out of tickets and Station Masters are warning of an acute shortage of tickets as reported in Ceylon Today on 20 July.

What is the reason for the shortage of tickets?

Chamara alleged that earlier the tickets were printed at the Government Press where it was handled by trained staff, but now the printing work is done at the railway department instead.

“The Government Press has stopped printing train tickets recently, but why? It’s a question for all of us. When the tickets were printed at the Government Press, they could supply as per the demand and the employees were well skilled, so the service was provided efficiently, but later, after bringing its work to the department, the work slowed down” he added.

He said nine printing machines have been brought to the printing office of the railway headquarters so far and it has been difficult to meet the demand as there are only four or five officials to carry out the task.

Chamara also mentioned that despite SLSMU’s written requests the authorities concerned have remained silent on this vital issue.

Meanwhile when contacted, the GM, Sri Lanka Railways (GMR), Dhammika Jayasundara, said the machines were brought to the railway headquarters as there was a problem in the room where tickets are printed at the Government Press.

Also, he claimed that even though there is a delay in supplying tickets, it has helped them to reduce costs, after their move to print tickets from the Government Press to the Railway Department. He also said necessary steps are being taken to speed up the service. GMR also assured that the employees will catch up with their work soon.

Chamara further said they have already made alternative arrangements to issue ticketsto all the passengers by utilising the ticket-stocks of the next three months, such as using the available Rs50 tickets instead of Rs30s and manually altering the destination and the actual fare.

He complained that there is a shortage of Station Masters (SM)and therefore the additional work like manually writing the destination on the ticket makes them stressful, cumbersome and time consuming. Also, he alleged that SMs work round the clock and due this additional responsibility, they are not even able to take their regular meals.

Accordingly, there are nearly 905 SMs instead of the required 1250 across the network of Railway Stations. Notably, there is a shortage of 30 SMs in the Fort and nine in Maradana Railway Stations, respectively.

Chamara also said if this situation continues as a Trade Union, they have no other choice but to let people travel free of charge.

Jayasundara, however, said a pilot project to issue mobile tickets and cashless tickets has been initiated last year, its work is in progress and would be implemented by 2023/24.

By Kanchana Kolagolla