ECONOMYNEXT- Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has asked the Urban Development Authority (UDA) include the city of Maharagama in the proposed Kottawa-Hunupitiya Railway project.
The Prime Minister made the request at a meeting held yesterday at the Finance Ministry with the UDA officials on the first phase of the proposed railway project aimed at reducing traffic congestion in the city of Colombo and surrounding urban areas.
Accordingly, the Prime Minister said that the inclusion of Maharagama, one of the most populous cities, in the Greater Colombo area would be more beneficial.
He also said that a large number of people from the outstations come to the Maharagama area and said that the project will also alleviate the severe traffic congestion in the city.
Pointing out that development should be done for the benefit of the people, Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that the country does not need development projects that do not meet the requirement of the people.
Under the first phase of the project, three railway lines have been identified for construction covering Colombo and suburbs as Red, Green and Blue Lines.
It is proposed to construct the Red Line from Ragama to Kirulapone via Colombo Fort, the Green Line to Kelaniya via Moratuwa, Piliyandala, Narahenpita and the Blue Line to Hunupitiya via Kottawa, Pannipitiya and Thalawathugoda.
UDA officials told the Prime Minister that the city of Maharagama could be included in the 21.5 km Kottawa-Hunupitiya railway line.
The daily economic loss to Sri Lanka due to traffic congestion in 2019 is estimated at Rs. 1000 million. As a solution to this, the city bus project which was recently launched by the present government is now being implemented successfully.
The aim of this project is to connect the people who come to Colombo in their private vehicles to the railway system through the bus project.
The project, to be implemented as a Public-Private Partnership is expected to be completed in four years and needs USD 5 billion in foreign direct investment.
When the current government came to power two years ago, a feasibility study for a Light Rail system financed by a soft-loan from the government of Japan had been carried out and work on the project had begun.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa canceled the project without a clear explanation as to why with the former General Manager Railways Prof Lalithasiri Gunaruwan stating that no freight could be carried on the light railway and “too many buildings would have to be demolished,” as part of the reasoning for the cancellation.
The new Light Rail project also cannot carry freight.
Urban Light Railways are the best modern way of moving commuters around thickly populated regions. India has recently eased congestion in Mumbai, New Delhi and even smaller cities such as Cochin by building these networks.
The current UDA project seeks to restart the project through private financing.
A 6 per cent government contribution is also proposed to be provided for this project. This railway project alone is expected to save around Rs 550 million daily.
The Prime Minister advised that in inviting foreign investors to the project, all their requests should be carefully considered and that the responsibility lies with the authorities of the Urban Development Authority. (Colombo/March04/2021)
Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe