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DateLine Sunday, 17 February 2008

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Chevron Lubricants renovates Kandy railway station

Chevron Lubricants last week undertook the renovation of the Kandy railway station as the first private sector initiative to develop the railway transport system in the country.


Managing Director Chevron Kishu Gomes exchanges the agreement with Secretary, Ministry of Transport Nihal Somaweera. Transport Minister Dullas Alahapperuma, Governor, Central Province Tikiri Kobbekaduwa and SLR GM Dr Lalithasiri Gunanruwan look on. Pic: Sudath Malaweera

The government has decided to get private sector investment to improve the train service in the country that has now hit rock bottom and running with government subsidies.

However, Chevron's initiative is a CSR project of the company and the company will renovate the Kandy and Matara railway stations. The Kandy railway station modernisation project will cost Rs. 7 million.

Policy decision

Transport Minister Dullas Alahaperuma told the signing ceremony that the government has taken a policy decision to get private investment to develop the train service without privatising the Railway.

"We are planning to develop 12 railway stations from Colombo to Lunawa with private sector collaboration, local or foreign. We have got several proposals to develop the Bambalapitiya railway station and one investor has proposed to construct a 36 storey building.

The 1.5 acre land at the station is worth billions of rupees. The CGR will invest on the land and the construction work would be carried out by the private investor. Modern railway stations will be set up in the basement of the buildings and the upper floors of the buildings will be used for supermarkets, apartments, car parks and other commercial purposes.

Development plan

The railway development plan was presented last year by the Strategic Enterprises Management Agency (SEMA) as an alternative to the privatisation of the loss-making Railway.

The Minister said that there was a loophole in the first cabinet paper passed earlier and it enabled Ministers to sell railway properties at any time. However, after the GM CGR, Dr. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan pointed it out the whole cabinet paper was corrected.

The Minister said that the railway system will be improved to give a quality service to the commuters within the next two years. The CGR has received funds to purchase new locomotives, carriages, renovation and development of tracks and the signal system.

Great service

Dr. Gunaruwan said that the CGR has gone a long way under difficult conditions over the past 140 years. Today, even under difficult conditions it provides a great service to the people and the country's economy but nobody recognises it. The CGR was abandoned by all successive governments and it received only one-fifth of the financial assistance it received in the 1960s.

"Now that era has gone and this year we received a huge financial package to develop the train service.

The government has a vision and we will invest on infrastructure and HR development", he said.

Dr. Gunaruwan called upon other private sector companies to emulate Chevron and develop the railway stations in the country. If we can save that money we can use the funds for infrastructure development, he said.

CSR program

The Managing Director of Chevron, Kishu Gomes said that this was an important CSR program of his company because it contributes to develop the holy city Kandy, where the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha is placed. Chevron is a socially responsible company and we undertake many CSR programs to help various segments of the society, he said.

The company has already started construction work on the Kandy Railway station project but bureaucratic bottlenecks have delayed progress. The floor tiles of the toilets have been removed. Replacements have been delayed because they are awaiting a particular colour of the floor tile from the railway engineers.

The renovation includes construction work on the drainage system, floor of the platforms, roof, toilets and other facilities for commuters. Gomes said that the Kandy railway station would be pleasant and attractive for commuters after the project is completed.

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