Traffic jams could slow Sri Lanka economic growth, transport expert warns

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Worsening traffic jams in Sri Lanka’s main metropolitan region could raises costs for businesses and slow down economic growth if urgent remedial action is not taken, a transport expert has warned.

The Colombo Metropolitan Region (CMR), which encompasses the suburbs, is the island’s sole urban centre, with most development along the main roads which puts pressure on access as trunk roads become major shopping streets, said Amal Kumarage.

“If Colombo fails economically, the whole country goes down,” said Kumarage, Senior Professor of the Moratuwa University’s Department of Transport & Logistics Management.

The CMR accounts for over one-third of all travel within the Western province which generates 45 percent of Gross Domestic Product, being where most services and manufacturing is located in the country of 20 million people.
 
The Western Province’s economic efficiency and liveability are important to Sri Lanka’s economic progress, Kumarage said.
 
“Congestion has forced travel speeds down. Congestion will slow economic growth,” he told a transport forum held by the Organisation of Professional Associations.

In another 20 years, Colombo will have to cope with three times the volume of traffic as personal incomes rise and private vehicles become more affordable and bus transport decreases.
 
“Travel speeds will decrease, fuel use will triple,” Kumarage said. “When transport is a quarter of your cost of production, we’re not competitive.”

These conditions will constrain Colombo’s ability to grow fast with the risk that growth will shift to somewhere else in Sri Lanka or outside Sri Lanka.

“It will create a serious situation unless we arrest it,” Kumarage said. “If we cannot manage this we will go into negative cycles of growth.”

The population in the CMR has steadily grown to 5.8 million and is expected to reach 7.9 million by 2035.

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