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Railway Associations voice support to shift museum to Maradana

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  • Threat of trade union action over pay

By Darshana Abayasingha 

Several railway trade unions on Wednesday expressed support to the decision to permanently house the Railway Museum in Colombo, shifting the locomotive museum in Kadugannawa to Maradana. Addressing a media briefing, Railway Operations Supervising Officers UnionConvener Lal Ariyarathne said Colombo is the ideal location for a museum to showcase the department’s rich 154-year-old history, as the city serves as a hub for tourists and students alike, and questioned the decision to set up the disputed second facility at Kadugannawa.

Ariyarathne was flanked by representatives and office bearers from the Railway Engine Driver’s Association, the Railway Stationmaster’s Association, Signal Engineer’s Association, Railway Clerk’s Association and the ‘SurakimuDumriya’ Association. 

However, on Monday, All Ceylon Railway Employees UnionGeneral Secretary S. P. Vithanage charged that the program to combine the Museum at Kadugannawa with Maradana at a cost of Rs. 300 million was a hurried decision anddeemed it suspicious, and demanded that the money be redirected to other areas to improve the rail service. 

These claims were rejected by Ariyarathne and other representatives, stating that the facility at Kadugannawa is a white elephant, draining the department’s resources. “From 2014 up to now, the museum at Kadugannawa has earned on average Rs. 100,000 every month. However, its 19-plus employees cost the department over Rs. 540,000 every month, at a time we are short-staffed and in need of better resources and manpower,” Ariyarathne charged. The Unions also expressed satisfaction that the Railway Museum project was entirely conceived and coordinated within the public sector. 

Representatives of unions from yesterday’s briefing also stated that the antique rail carriages and locomotives at Kadugannawa were damaged by the natural elements, due to lack of cover and maintenance, underscoring the need for them to be transferred to the primary Railway Museum and complex at Maradana, which will provide adequate care and cover alongside 42 locomotives on display. A dedicated and fully functional museum will bring in much-needed revenue for the department, they said. 

The transfer of carriages and locomotives at Kadugannawa to Maradana and the refurbishment of the Railway Museum in Colombo is funded by People’s Bank, under its Corporate Social Responsibility program.  

Also at yesterday’s press briefing, the railway unions charged that they are yet to receive solutions to the salary anomalies that were raised in December 2017, which led to island-wide trade union action by railway staff earlier this year. Ariyarathne charged that whilst the President had given them an undertaking to provide effective solutions to the matter over a period of two months, this is yet to happen, and reports reaching them suggest that relevant changes have not been affected to salaries as per their grades. Accordingly, railway unions will resort to trade union action towards the end of this month following the end of the Ordinary Level examination, they stated. 


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