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Train commuters stranded

 Thousands of train commuters including tourists were inconvenienced for the second day due to the strike launched by Railway trade unions. A special bus service was in operation at the Fort Railway station yesterday for passengers who had made reservations earlier. Pictures by Wimal Karunathilake and Thilak Perera

Train commuters were greatly inconvenienced yesterday too due to the islandwide strike launched by the Locomotive Engineering Operators’ Union (LEOU).

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said the strike had left many commuters stranded at railway stations or on roads while some people even had to skip going to work because of the strike.

The Minister requested Railway Trade Unions to call off their strike considering the inconvenience caused to students sitting the GCE O/L Examination next week.

Minister De Silva has also instructed officials to take all measures to lessen the difficulties that the public have to undergo due to the sudden strike.

Accordingly, the Minister said the SLTB will operate more buses to lessen the inconvenience caused to.

Sri Lanka Railways Deputy General Manager (Commercial) Vijaya Samarasinghe said that train season tickets will be valid for travel in Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) buses due to the ongoing strike.

A Railway Graded Trade Union Collective Spokesman said the token strike was successful as a limited number Railway Control Room officers said around 10 trains operated yesterday despite the strike.Four trains carrying fuel had also left for the Katunayake airport from Colombo Fort.

A Railway Graded Trade Union Collective Spokesman said the token strike was successful as a limited number of trains operated yesterday eventhough on average the Sri Lanka Railways operates about 350 trains on a weekday. The strike, which began on Thursday, continues yesterday.

The strike action was launched on Thursday demanding the solution for long-term problem regarding the recruitment of engine driver assistants.

“We have earlier appealed authorities to resolve the problem,but our grievances were not addressed. We have appealed that a separate system be created to recruit drive assistants instead of considering them as equal to engine drivers. But, the problem has not been solved as yet,” the Railway Graded Trade Union Collective Spokesman said.

Meanwhile, six other trade unions, including the Train Controllers’Union,Railway Engine Drivers’ Union, Railway Station Masters’ Union and the Railway Guards’ Union had joined the strike from midnight on Wednesday citing several demands.

He said the discussions held with a senior adviser to the Prime Minister earlier were not successful. Meanwhile, discussions held at the Transport Ministry on Wednesday with the participation of the Minister,Transport Ministry Secretary G.S.Withanage, Railway General Manager S. Mahanama Abeywickrama and Locomotive Operating Engineers’ Union representatives was also fruitless.