"The bugs are found under the cushioned armrests, between the seat and compartment walls and under wooden seats"
"He said the chemicals used to curb bugs are not harmful to the commuters"
"they said that several commuters had made complaints with them and added that they were working on spraying and cleaning the surroundings"
Public transportation now in Sri Lanka has developed to the extent that most people use it as a preferred mode of travel. Modes of public transport in Sri Lanka comprise buses, cars, trains, tuk tuks (Three wheelers) and helicopters. Among the mentioned modes, the train is the most commonly used mode for travelling in terms of convenience and low charges. However, concerns have been raised after an insect known as the bug was found in several compartments.
Subsequently, continuous grumbles have come from the commuters alleging that they feel uncomfortable and inconvenienced when they travel due to bugs bites and stings.
The article envisages the difficulties faced by the commuters following the prevalence of bugs inside compartments and the measures that the Sri Lanka Railways has taken in combating the bug menace. Coastal line rains infected
The commuters who travel in Ruhunu Kumari, Samudra Devi, Sagarika and intercity trains have made complaints with Sri Lanka Railways urging the authorities to look into the matter and take immediate steps regarding the issue.
The bugs are found under the cushioned armrests, between the seat and compartment walls and under wooden seats of the old-fashioned retrofitted coaches. Bugs used to live in covered areas in the train seats.
Many complaints were received from commuters who travelled in the S11 Indian made power-sets (Diesel Multiple Units-DMUs).
Several commuters had been bitten by blood-thirsty bugs and it could pose a big threat for the train service.
"Commuters are also bitten by ants which can prevail inside seats due to human activities like leaving food items on seats"
Authorities working on the matter
Dematagoda Railway Motive Power Sub Department Senior Mechanical Engineer Sarath Bandara said, the sub Department had been tasked with cleaning the infested compartments by Sri Lanka Railways following the complaints.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, he said Sri Lanka Railways had taken several measures to suppress the bug menace.
“As the first step, we spray bio-friendly chemicals inside compartments infested with bugs once in two weeks.
He said the chemicals used to curb bugs are not harmful to the commuters. “We can use chemicals to totally do away with bugs, but it is impossible to do so because those chemical substances are deadly and harmful to people,” he added. “As the second step, we decided to change the armrests and replace them with new cushions. Now, we are in the process of replacing the seats with new cushions,” Bandara said.
“In our workshop, we have the facilities to clean five or six compartments at a time. Most of the S11 power-set seats had been replaced with new cushions. That will help run the service bugs-free for at least seven or eight years,” he said.
"As the first step, we spray bio-friendly chemicals inside compartments infested with bugs once in two weeks"
Bugs inside stations too
It was reported that bugs are not only found in compartments, but in several stations too.
When the Daily Mirror carried out its own inspection to confirmed whether there are bugs in the stations, we could find bugs in Fort and Horape stations; underneath some of the benches.
When speaking with the station masters at the respective stations, they said that several commuters had made complaints with them and added that they were working on spraying and cleaning the surroundings.
Commuters should also be responsible
A senior official of the Dematagoda Railway Motive Power Sub Department told the Daily Mirror that although the commuters made complaints that they were bitten by bugs, it was not the case all the time.
“Commuters are also bitten by ants which can prevail inside seats due to human activities like leaving food items on seats. Hence, it is pointless pointing fingers only at the Railways department,” he said.
“If the commuters also corporate with us, this can be easily dealt with. Thus, we ask the commuters to help the department keep compartments clean, so that parasites like bugs are kept away,” he added.
He said that the majority of commuters complain for the sake of complaining without knowing why they are making a complaint.
“Because of this situation, Sri Lankan Railways often gets blamed. We try our level best to do our part. In this case, we need the assistance of the general public as well,” he added.
Voice of commuters
The Daily Mirror asked several commuters who travel in Ruhunu Kumari, Samudra Devi, Sagarika and commuters at the Fort Railway station regarding these bugs.
Hector Jayasinghe from Wadduwa said that he had seen bugs inside compartments especially underneath armrests and had been bitten on several occasions.“I have been traveling by train for 28 years. According to my experience, this is not something that evolved in the past, but has been prevailing for the past 6 years,” Jayasinghe said. Sudaraka Jayamal from Panadura said that he had seen bugs under the armrests although he had not been bitten yet. “I have heard people saying that bugs have become a damn nuisance for them. I think it is up to Sri Lanka Railways to make sure that the bugs are not inside the compartments,” he added.
Kusum Disanayake from Ambalangoda said that she had personally informed several officials at Sri Lanka Railways on numerous occasions but they seemed to be ignoring and denying the fact that there are bugs inside compartments.
"We can use chemicals to totally do away with bugs, but it is impossible to do so because those chemical substances are deadly and harmful to people"
She was impressed when the Daily Mirror said that Sri Lanka Railways is keen on taking steps, but she said that the steps taken are not visible.
Mervin Pathirana from Ragama said that bugs were not only found in the coastal line trains, but inside intercity trains as well.
“I think this is not something that can be easily dealt with. Even officials of Sri Lanka Railways can’t do it overnight. It takes time,” Rathnayake said. Wathsala Madushani from Ganemulla said that the bugs should be eradicated before the situation would worsen.
“The authorities should take appropriate measures to nip the situation in the bud before things go out of control,” Madushani said.
Idunil Perera from Payagala said that he had been bitten by bugs twice and added that he was highly inconvenienced following the couple of attacks. When the Daily Mirror asked the railway guard serving Sagarika, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, he said that he had also received certain complaints from the commuters and added however that the situation did not appear to be very serious.
“I too inspected some of the seats in the train and could not find any bugs,” he said.