Sri Lanka begins upgrading ageing railway with ADB credit

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is starting to upgrade its ageing railway network loan to win back passengers as congestion and delays hit road transport, with Asian Development Bank credit to upgrade signalling, communications and ticketing, officials said.

“Nobody is paying attention to railway,” Transport & Civil Aviation Arjuna Ranatunga said.

“Today, everyone’s focus lies on the presidential elections.”

“However, my focus is on how we can improve this country’s transportation.”

“We opened the Matara-Beliatta rail track. Twelve power sets will be brought down from India. Another 9 power sets will be procured from China for the upcountry rail track”

Sri Lanka Railways has 250 locomotives but only 76 per cent are operating, and 49 per cent of this fleet is over 30 years old.

Its signalling network was set up in 1985, and those communications lines are no longer working.

The Sri Lankan railway carries 136.7 million passengers and 2 million tons of goods annually. Railways hope to attract 10 per cent of the passengers and 5 per cent of the freight by 2025.

During that time the SriLankan population is expected to grow to 25 million. Between 2009 and 2018 Sri Lanka’s vehicle population had doubled worsening congestion.

As road transport slows with congestion at various choke points, railways have an advantage in speed.

“It takes only one-third of the time a bus takes to travel to any given destination,” says Palitha Samarasinghe, project director of the Colombo Suburban Railway Project (CSRP).

The ADB credit will help set up a 4G mobile communications network, a new railway control centre and an e-ticketing system. In addition to helping passengers, e-ticketing will reduce revenue leakages from ticketless travel.

The contract of the communication system is to be tendered in September 2019.

The ADB is giving a 160 million dollars loan on 0.5 per cent interest to modernise the operations and improve the efficiency in Sri Lanka’s railway system.

The total project cost is 192 million US dollars, out of which 32 million US dollars will be provided by the Sri Lankan government.

In later stages, several suburban tracks will be upgraded.

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