The Borneo Post

Sri Lanka’s plan to boost connectivi­ty and reduce congestion in Colombo


Sri Lanka is set to break ground on the first stage of the Colombo Light Rail Transit ( LRT) project, a major developmen­t designed to ease congestion and improve connectivi­ty in the capital.

On March 14 Patali Champika Ranawaka, the minister of megapolis and western developmen­t, announced that preliminar­y constructi­on work on the 15.8km LRT link between Malabe and Fort/Pettah would begin in the second quarter of this year.

The 16- station first phase will connect some of the busiest and most congested parts of the capital, and is expected to slash travel time on the route from 1.5 hours to around 30 minutes once complete in 2024.

The first- stage link is expected to cost around US$ 2. 2illionbn, with 30 billion yen ( US$ 270 million) provided by the Japan Internatio­nal Cooperatio­n Agency (JICA) in the form of a soft loan.

Overall, the total LRT project, which consists of seven phases and is expected to cost around US$ 6 billion, will receive 200.4 billion yen ( US$ 1.8 billion) from JICA, the largest- ever foreign concession­ary loan for a transport infrastruc­ture project in the country.

Under the terms of the agreement, the loan will be subject to an interest rate of 0.1 per cent each year, while funds for consulting services will incur a rate of 0.01 per cent.

The repayment term for the loan will be 40 years, with a 12year grace period. The agreement also stipulates the utilisatio­n of Japanese technology in the constructi­on of the LRT system.

LRT to improve efficiency, economic developmen­t

The total network will consist of 75km of rail line once all seven phases are fully completed, with the number of passengers using the main public transit corridors in the Colombo Metropolit­an Region expected to rise from 1.9 million to 4.5 million per day by 2035.

To this end, three more routes have already been planned, with these projects to be developed under public-private partnershi­ps.

“Tenders will be called for the constructi­on of three corridors – from Kadawatha to Pettah, Moratuwa to Pettah and Piliyandal­a to Pettah – by the end of this year,” Ranawaka said.

“The preliminar­y studies on the three corridors, including the feasibilit­y study and environmen­t impact analysis, have already been completed.”

The network is expected to help relieve severe traffic congestion for upwards of 1m people who travel into the centre of Colombo every day, with the city home to 29 per cent of the country’s population and accounting for 42 per cent of GDP.

Given that on a national level 90 per cent of all movement of freight and people depends on road transporta­tion, according to the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Developmen­t ( MMWD), successful­ly easing congestion through the constructi­on of a light rail link could provide a considerab­le boost to the economy by reducing commuter times and easing arterial congestion of goods and people. Land acquisitio­n process provides challenges

However, while constructi­on work on the first stage is expected to begin in the second quarter, progress of the project will likely depend on the pace of acquiring the land required for the developmen­t.

Although designed as an elevated track system – reducing the amount of land needed for the project – the network will nonetheles­s require the requisitio­n of property along its route.

According to the MMWD, while both the feasibilit­y study and selection process have been finalised, only five per cent of the land acquisitio­n and resettleme­nt stage is completed. Improved transport vital for downstream benefits

In addition to easing congestion and reducing commuting times, easier access to the city centre associated with the LRT project is set to have a knock- on effect by boosting demand for residentia­l and retail property in outer suburban areas.

Improved connectivi­ty will likely spur further residentia­l developmen­ts in these districts and in turn boost growth in the services sector to support this suburban expansion.

Furthermor­e, the network, along with other improvemen­ts to the city’s transport system, could open up new parts of the city to commercial and retail developmen­t.

This process already appears to be under way, with Malabe – the final stop of the LRT network – experienci­ng rising property prices, according to a report issued last year by real estate consultanc­y firm JLL. The report noted that commercial prices in the suburb are set to rise at a faster rate than residentia­l prices.

Additional­ly, the report forecast a rise in the number of IT parks and business centres along the route of the new rail link, which would push up property prices and generate employment opportunit­ies.

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia