Sri Lanka Megapolis plan seen neglecting public transport

ECONOMYNEXT – A new master plan to develop Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo and adjacent districts into a ‘megapolis’ has ignored professional advice and not given enough priority to modernising public transport like buses, a logistics expert said.

Requirements for improving mobility under the Western Region Megapolis Plan, which envisages transforming the entire Western Province into a megapolis, appear ad hoc and poorly thought out, said Amal Kumarage,  senior professor of the Moratuwa University’s Department of Transport & Logistics Management.

Multi-billion dollar projects are being approved and requests for proposals are to be called even before proper feasibility studies have been completed, he said.

The apparent preference for “supplier-driven” projects, which the former Rajapaksa regime was criticised for, is worrying, Kumarage said.

The megapolis plan is giving preference to expensive transport systems like Light Rail Transit (LRT), a rail-based urban public transport system common in modern cities which is similar to tramways.

This was not a short term priority proposed by transport experts, Kumarage who has thrice served as chairman of the National Transport Commission, told a forum held by Verité Research, a think-tank, to discuss concerns about the megapolis project.

The government has given the go-ahead for a 3.1 billion dollar LRT project in Colombo and its suburbs and also allocated more money for building more roads.

Kumarage said transport experts had proposed giving priority to a relatively lower cost Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system where modern buses travel on dedicated lanes, offering fast, comfortable services which can be implemented more quickly than rail.

Modernising public transport was an urgent requirement to take cars off the roads which are getting increasingly jammed with vehicles, he said.

Colombo is nearing gridlock as higher incomes and lower import taxes on vehicles till recently had led to a flood of car imports, with average vehicle travel speeds reduced to a virtual crawl.
 (COLOMBO, April 10, 2016)

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