Long-overdue LRT project to commence in March, 2020 | Sunday Observer

Long-overdue LRT project to commence in March, 2020

LRT in Indonesia. Pic: Courtesy The Jakarta Post
LRT in Indonesia. Pic: Courtesy The Jakarta Post

The much anticipated and long- overdue Light Rail Transit (LRT) project aimed at modernising the transportation system of the country kicked-off last week with work on the project expected to commence in March 2020.

The US$ 2.2 billion project was earmarked as a major transportation development project for decades but due to political bickering and dilly-dallying the much needed move was relegated to the backburner by successive governments.

“All preliminary feasibility studies on the project have been completed and physical work on the project will begin in March next year,” said Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka.

The Malabe and Colombo Fort LRT project funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is expected to be completed in four years. Following the completion of the project travel time from Malabe to Colombo Fort is estimated to reduce to 30 minutes.

“We have signed the agreement and the first step is to relocate the water, electricity and storm water lines and thereafter, widen the road from Malabe to Battaramulla as a four-lane road,” the Minister said adding that new power lines will be installed after the existing lines have been relocated.

The LRT project hyped by politicians as a move to modernize Colombo has been a pressing need to provide a facelift to the ailing public transportation which only aggravates traffic congestion in the city and contributes to the loss of valuable man hours for productive labour.

It is estimated that the country incurs a loss of around Rs. 40 billion annually due to traffic congestion and air pollution in cities. On average around 250,000 vehicles comprising around 15,000 buses, 10,000 trucks and around 225,000 private vehicles enter the city daily.

“The LRT project is a significant step to ensure Sri Lanka is on its way to become a modern 21st century society,’ Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said at the launch.

According to the minister, a new Act will be introduced for the setting up of a regulatory body and operational institutions will be set up as separate units.

“We will be developing railway stations, land and multi-model transportations hubs at Battaramulla and Pettah. Pumping stations to mitigate floods have already been set up to direct water to the Kelania river and green buffer zones too have been built to ensure there will be no flooding,” the Minister said, adding that LRT is a major development project launched by the government.

However, city development experts said boosting transportation alone is not adequate to modernize the city. Uplifting the conditions of roads and city planning is crucial to develop the city. Citing top cities such as Singapore experts said consistency in policy and enforcing the rule of law are pre-requisites to develop a city.