Sri Lanka transport reforms urgent as vehicles crawl: expert

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Urgent transport reforms are needed in Sri Lanka with average vehicle speeds in the capital Colombo dropping to a virtual crawl and projected to get even slower, an expert has warned.

Congestion has been getting worse because of badly planned urban growth and a flood of vehicle imports as personal incomes rose, said Amal Kumarage, Senior Professor of the Moratuwa University’s Department of Transport & Logistics Management.

“The average speed of travel within the Colombo city limits is now only 12 kilometres an hour,” he said.

The average vehicle speed within the Colombo Municipal Council was projected to drop by 50 percent to 6 km an hour by 2020 from 2014 if urgent transport reforms are not done, he said.

The number of motor vehicles in the island is projected to rise by 39 percent to 1.95 million from 1.4 million over the same period.

Sri Lanka has seen a flood of vehicle imports in recent years as personal incomes have been rising while the public transport system has deteriorated.

Within the Colombo Metropolitan Region, which encompasses the suburbs, average vehicle speed had dropped to 17 km/hour and is projected to fall by 55 percent to a mere eight kilometres an hour by 2020 if nothing is done.

Higher incomes lead to more demand for travel and to more private vehicle use particularly given the deterioration of public transport.

“Congestion forces speed down. It’s a growing concern,” Kumarage told a transport forum held by the Organisation of Professional Associations.

“The roads cannot handle the demand for mobility as the population increases.”