Former ICTA board member questions Chinese smart card system

A former board member of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) has questioned a move to grant a China company the contract for a smart card system to be installed at train stations in Sri Lanka.

Sanjiva Weerawarana said that when he was on the ICTA board he helped write a report on the project which proposed a more modern solution to railway ticketing locally at a fraction of the cost.

“Tragic that we lost this opp to go all mobile and paper/card-less. Smart cards are dead old now,” Weerawarana tweeted.

He noted that smart phone penetration is now 60% so Sri Lanka can easily make a system that works over SMS and USSD so that any phone works.

“For people who don’t have phones we can have kiosks – which are simply mounted android phones (like how you pay for parking in Galle Face One). Low cost,” he said.

In February, the Ministry of Transport Management announced that a smart card for quick train travel and an e-ticketing system for seat reservations in trains will be introduced in the near future.

Cabinet approval has been granted to provide the contract for the installation of ticketing machines for the project to a Chinese firm.

The issuing of train tickets is to be carried out under five mechanisms and the e-ticketing machines are to be installed in main towns identified under the project.

Passengers will be able to purchase tickets as a reload card, a card with a monthly usage package, via QR codes, and an unlimited number of tickets at the time of the journey from the relevant train station.

The Government has secured a loan from the Asian Development Bank for the installation of the e-ticketing machines at 353 train stations.

When inquired in this regard, the General Manager of Railways Dilantha Fernando had told Colombo Gazette the Department of Railways intends to technologically improve the existing system, and the new e-ticketing machines are to be introduced as the first phase of the initiative.

The contract for the project was granted to Chinese firm after bidding via the national tender process, and the firm is tasked with installing all the machines by the end of 2023.

Dilantha Fernando added that the project will help minimize congestion reported within the train stations on a daily basis and will also provide much-needed convenience for train passengers. (Colombo Gazette)


  1. @Anonymous

    I know it is fashionable for contemporary Sri Lankan’s to blame the “colonial powers” for all that ails this country. I am sure that the world class railway service that the British built before departing, wasn’t intended to serve the needs of the Sri Lankan people 72 years later without infrastructural investment, and expansion by governments over the years.

    Are the British responsible for all the corrupt Sinhalese governments who have made endemic corruption an art form ? Are the political thieves that have raped and pillaged this country since Independence a reflection of the British political system or a mere reflection of ingrained Sri Lankan traits and culture.

    Even the best efforts of Diogenes; wouldn’t find one incorruptible man in Sri Lanka. But yes, continue blaming the British for all Sri Lanka’s self-inflicted failings.

    • @ Gabriella,
      I appreciate your honesty.
      “Are the British responsible for all the corrupt Sinhalese governments who have made endemic corruption an art form ? ”
      No, not at all. They never left the island’s books in the red. There was enough money left in the coffer for the idiotic, ignorant and in your own words, “the political thieves of ingrained Sri Lankan traits and culture” for them to succeed if they had the will.

  2. Interesting that only the Chinese have the technology to produce these semi-antiquated systems. Every million dollar plus contract is awarded to the Chinese. One doesn’t have to be a genius to realise the level of corruption still prevalent in this country.

  3. No wonder the country is listed just one place above the countries (Afganistan) that are not able to pay their foreign debt/loan payments this year or in the foreseeable future.
    The idiotic government is cancelling the railway projects and want to implement a system to sell tickets which does not exist. The leftover railway lines which the colonial powers built and left for us are overcrowded, unsafe and dying.
    Aba Saranai!

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