Sri Lanka to build first LRT for Colombo with Japan finding: Prime Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will build the first light rail transit (LRT) line in Colombo to ease traffic congestion with funding from Japan which has agreed, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

There have been suggestions to build a monorail (which is smaller) and also open it for private investment, though there have been concerns over viability and traffic volumes.

Others have also called for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) which can be implemented fast but takes up road space.

"The first LRT will be built with funding from Japan," Prime Minister Wickremesighe said.

But Colombo will need more tracks in the future, he said.

Japan originally expressed willingness to fund a rapid transit system for the Colombo-Malabe corridor and the Japan International Co-operation Agency conducted a traffic master plan for the greater Colombo area.

Under the new administration plan to create ‘magapolis’ of over 9 million people in the Western province by 2035 traffic projections and capacity has substantially changed.

A published ‘megapolis’ plan said Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) a cheaper system, was almost at capacity on the Galle Road to Negomob corridor in 2015 if there was only one lane per direction and had exceeded for Kandy and Malabe corridors.

"While the cost plays a role in economics of the intervention, the capacity plays a role in the sustainability of the intervention," the Megapolis plan noted.

"An intervention with under capacity to cater for the project planning horizon is detrimental similar to intervention with a high costs."





The most popular model followed in many countries is for a state agency to build the track and hand over the responsibility of operating rolling stock to a private company.

The private firm will maximise passenger carriage and pay taxes, fees or revenue a share to the metropolitan transport authority that owns the track.

The most successful privately owned metro transport company is the Bangkok’s BTS Skytran, in which the first two tracks were privately built, with the government only giving the right of way.

A large volume of revenue for the firm comes from advertising.

While in state run metros such as in New York, especially underground sections are gloomy and full of graffiti and sometimes crime, privately run networks are brightly lit and full of advertisements.

Government run metros usually make operational losses and has to be funded out of taxes taken from food or other services. Sri Lanka’s government is now charging value added tax from healthcare unlike other more civilized nations. (Colombo/June18/2016)

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