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Contributions of railway services towards socio-economic equity and environmental sustenance: Reflections from post-lockdown restrictions on train operations in the Western Province of Sri Lanka

Authors:

T. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan ,

University of Colombo, LK
About T. Lalithasiri
Professor in Transport Planning and Economics, Department of Economics
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M. H. Saumya Dilrukshi

Kyoto University, JP
About M. H. Saumya

Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Colombo

 

Research Student, Graduate School of Management

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Abstract

In Sri Lanka, rail transportation was suspended in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 lockdowns. This constrained the mobility of low-income groups, resulting in a negative impact on social equity. The present article is an outcome of a research conducted to examine the direct and indirect costs that the nation and the financially vulnerable social groups would have suffered due to the opening up of the economy without passenger train operations in the Western Province. The research adopted the approach of analyzing comparative costs against alternative means of mobility and associated impacts, as its methodology. The outcomes revealed that the travel costs of socially vulnerable segments in the Western Province would have increased by around 140% -500% if they had to use bus travel as the alternative mode of mobility, in the absence of train services, during the one month period since opening up of the economy after COVID lockdowns. This cost increase would have been much greater had they used the motorcycle mode as the alternative to the railway. Lowest income groups would not have been able to afford such alternative modes of travel because of higher costs, and thus, at least some of them would have had to forego fulfilling their mobility needs; a significant equity implication. On the other hand, if the train travelers in the Western Province managed to meet their mobility needs through bus and motorcycle modes, in the absence of train service, the national economy would have been compelled to incur an estimated additional cost of around USD 0.64Mn and USD 1.76Mn, respectively, on fuel imports during the same period of one month. The resultant additional CO2 emissions also would have been substantial. It is therefore evinced that railway transport is affordable, saves foreign exchange and minimizes environmental pollution, and any failure to maintain train services is bound to be economically costly and socially and environmentally harmful in the long-run.

How to Cite: Gunaruwan, T. L., & Dilrukshi, M. H. S. (2022). Contributions of railway services towards socio-economic equity and environmental sustenance: Reflections from post-lockdown restrictions on train operations in the Western Province of Sri Lanka. University of Colombo Review, 3(1), 182–196. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/ucr.v3i1.67
Published on 02 Aug 2022.
Peer Reviewed

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