By Sandun A. Jayasekera
City of Colombo, a metro with extremely congested roads and highly polluted air quality will construct four corridors for light train transport at its strategic entrance point, with the objective to ease congestions on busy highways leading to Colombo.
The Megapolis and Western Development Ministry is already in the process of drawing a blue print to construct a Light Railway System (LRS) from Malabe along an elevated rail track on a stretch of 16 kilometres, that would bring the huge traffic snarl on this main highway to a controllable level, lessening the air pollution through encouraging people, mainly office workers to use modern, comfortable and affordable light railway transport for their day to day travelling.
The time saved from the current one and a half hours to thirty minutes to reach Fort or Pettah from Malabe and vice versa will be an added benefit, once the LRS is commissioned in 2024 according to the plan.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will fund this highly ambitious project fully at US$ 1.7 billion (Rs. 172 billion approximately) and the feasibility report on the Light Rail Transit (LRT) was handed over to Megapolis and Western Development Minister Champika Ranawaka at his office last week by the country head of JICA, Fusato Tanaka. The soft loan is repayable in 40 years with a grace period of 12 years.
Due to severe traffic congestion in the Colombo metropolitan area and the number of traffic modes utilizing the road network, the improvement of current public transportation systems have become urgently necessary
“Due to severe traffic congestion in the Colombo metropolitan area and the number of traffic modes utilizing the road network, the improvement of current public transportation systems have become urgently necessary,” Minister Ranawaka added.
Addressing the media after receiving the Feasibility Study Report from the head of JICA, Minister Ranawaka said his Ministry was lucky enough to obtain this huge soft loan package from the Japanese government on a highly concessionary rate of 1% interest and Sri Lanka would settle the loan with interest before the stipulated period of 40 years.
The JICA – LRT consolidate plans to procure Japanese rolling stock, electric trains which will be the first experience in the nearly 152 decade history of Sri Lanka Railways (SLR). The trains will have the latest technology, enough space for commuters, school children, tourists and all passengers, with safe, clean, secure and a comfortable ride. The LRT will also be completed with environment friendly 16 stations (mostly a station at every kilometre) universal design, sustainable and easy for management and good connectivity for multi modal transfers. The LRT will also introduce the self serving ticketing system (Automated Fare Collection) with ticketing office and ticketing gate to Sri Lanka for the first time. The station will comprise of an air conditioned tea kiosk, coffee shops and toilets. An elevated structure constructed parallel to the existing highway will minimize and avoid impacts on both environmental and social issues such as construction impacts, vibrations, noises, land acquisitions and livelihood impacts etc., Minister Ranawaka stressed.
The total length is nearly 16 kilometres with 16 stations located between Fort and IT Park, Malabe.
“The JICA – LRT has strong connections with other transport modes at the east end and west end and middle of the route that joins Fort Transport centre with Borella, Cotta Road and Malabe. This is the area that has current transport demand in the city centre, alongwith areas with potential demand around Sethsiripaya and Battaramulla. Our target is to ease the heavy traffic congestion in this area, as the issue has developed into a major problem to the economy, environment and development. We expect to draw attention to High Level Road, Kandy Road and Galle Road after this,” Project Director LRTP, Chaminda Ariyadasa said.