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Sri Lanka monorail plan to suburbs not feasible: minister

ECONOMYNEXT – A planned monorail along a key traffic corridor from Colombo to the suburb of Malabe is not feasible until 2025, but tracks of shorter distances could be possible, a minister said.

"Monorail is also one of the options but according to our calculations, that is not financially feasible of the time being," Minister Patali Ranawaka, who heads a ministry charged with making greater Colombo into a Western Province Megapolis told members of the National Chamber of Commerce.

"But here in city areas we will introduce monorail rather than out of Colombo areas. We have seven corridors but (traffic in) each corridor is not sufficient for this monorail. But beyond 2025 it will be a feasible option.

"But for the time being Borella, to Pettah, Kotahena to Pettah in the city area it can be done."

Under a Japan International Corporation Agency study an overhead light rail system was talked about as the more cost-effective option rather than a standard size mass rapid transit (MRT) rail for the Colombo-Malabe corridor with an off-shoot to Kotahena.

The Colombo-Malabe corridor is congested and traffic is slower than walking pace is some section during the morning and evening rush hour.

There were expectations last year that the project would be advertised for investment by the Board of Investment quickly.

But Minister Ranawaka said the shorter lengths of track within the city are expected to be on a build operate transfer (BOT) basis.

"We will allow foreign investors to come," he said.

MRT solutions are typically public private partnerships where the civil works are done by the government and rolling stock is owned and operated by a private party on a long term BOT contract.





But in Bangkok, a property group now known as BTS built a standard-sized overhead MRT (Bangkok Skytrain) entirely with private capital and a large proportion of its revenue comes from advertising. Some of the newer lines however are standard PPP with less risk to the operator.

In the last quarter BTS related media revenue was 466 million Thai Bhat compared to MRT revenue of 617 million Bhat from ticket and revenue shares from other concessions including the operation of a bus rapid transit (BRT) line.

Sri Lanka is expecting the Western Region Megapolis to have a population of 9 million people by 2040 from the current 5.8 million which is about 29 percent of the population.

He said a growing middle class no longer wanted to use available public transport.

Under the megapolis plan some new roads will be built, some roads expanded and transport hubs built to integrate bus rapid transit (BRT) and rail.

Colombo’s Manning Market will be shifted to build a transport hub around the Pettah railway station. Transport hubs will be built in Moratuwa, Kadawatha, Kottawa and Katunayake.

"We want to encourage more people to use public transport," Ranawaka said.

The Colombo Megapolis plan has been drawn with local experts and specialists from Singapore’s urban planning agency, Surbana. (Colombo/Jan24/2016)

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