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Sri Lanka Railways operates both intercity services, connecting major population centres, and commuter rail, serving Colombo commuter traffic. The railways also transport freight.

The railway moves aprox. 300,000 passengers daily on 324 trains between 320 stations across the country with 1561 kilometers of rail track with 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) broad gauge .  Despite heavy over-crowding on the railways, its share of the passenger market is only 7 percent, while it only handles 2 percent of the freight market. At a peak of 1,900 metres (6,200 ft), Sri Lanka has the highest broad gauge railway in the world. Also, Sri Lanka has broad gauge railway which in the closest to equator line in the world.

Most inter-city services are provided in different classes of varying comfort.

  • 1st class sleeper carries sleeping-berths and are provided on a few overnight trains.
  • 1st class observation car is available on certain daytime trains, mostly on the Main Line, and is very popular among tourists. The observation car provides wide views of the scenery and is normally at the rear of the train but occasionally behind the locomotive.
  • 1st class air-conditioned seats are available on occasional inter-city express trains between Colombo and Vavunia and Colombo and Batticaloa. Now it also available in Udarata manike and Podi manike trains on main line.
  • 2nd class seats are provided on all inter-city trains and are available as either unreserved seats or reserved seats, where a passenger is allocated a specific seat.
  • 3rd class seats are available on most trains. This class can get very crowded and carries only basic facilities.
  • Rajadhani Express and Expo-rail are two privately run services newly introduced to many inter-city trains. They are luxury, air-conditioned compartments on Sri Lanka Railways trains, functioning privately in partnership with SLR. The prices of the tickets are typically higher than SLR's own first class tickets. On board, one is provided with tea, snacks, and meals.

Commuter trains serve the busiest portions of the railways, ferrying commuters within Colombo and its suburbs.  Most commuter trains are operated with diesel-multiple units, and lack the three-class configuration seen in the inter-city services. Commuter trains help alleviate rush hour congestion on city roads, but can be very crowded.

Hierarchy of trains





Air conditioned luxury trains

These are air-conditioned trains linking major cities. Consist only of air conditioned carriages


Intercity express trains

They are among the fastest trains, There are only a few stops. 


Night mail trains

Night time express trains travelling


Express trains

Have more stops than an intercity express Links Colombo and major transport hubs.


Suburban trains

Stops every station on its route. Services are provided to certain extents from Colombo


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