Sri Lankan government urged to give priority to upgrade rail transport before Central expressway
Professionals in the transport sector are reportedly urging the government of Sri Lanka to give priority to rail transport.
According to reports, the experts have charged that the government was wasting tax payer money by building an expressway to the Kandy city at high cost when upgrading rail links was more viable and cheaper.
Rail travel from Colombo to Kandy is faster than travelling by road.
Experts have noted that restrictions on the type of vehicles allowed on Sri Lanka’s expressways meant 70% of travellers like those using normal buses, three-wheeled auto-rickshaw taxis and motorbikes would not be able to use them although all tax payers bore the cost of the projects.
“Train travel is much faster than road even now,” former General Manger of Sri Lanka Railways, Priyal de Silva has told a forum recently.
He has proposed upgrading the track and increasing the frequency of trains to cater to anticipated travel demand between the two cities at the forum held by the Sri Lanka Society of Transport & Logistics (SLSTL) with the Mechanical Engineering Sectional Committee of the Institute of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL).
The forum on ‘Railway Development as a Viable Alternative to the Central Expressway Extension to Kandy’ has probed how a modern railway is a cheaper, effective and sustainable alternative to the proposed expressway which has become controversial.
De Silva has said the immediate improvements he proposed will get commuters to Kandy in 110 minutes and the frequency of trains increased to 20 from 13 today in each direction.
A former Chief Engineer, Sri Lanka Railways, Ranjith Dissanayake has proposed an entirely new high-speed partly elevated double-track railway to Kandy that would do away with level crossings for vehicles that now impose speed restrictions on trains.
Reports state that the new trace would make use of hillocks near the coast to reduce the gradient of the climb to the central hills that in some places on the existing track are too steep for high speed travel.
Dissanayake has said the technology was available and speeds of 150kmph would be enough for Sri Lanka’s requirements for inter-city train travel.
Meanwhile, Amal S Kumarage, Senior Professor at the Department of Transport and Logistics, University of Moratuwa has noted that the proposed Central Expressway to Kandy was far too costly, based on uncertain traffic demand estimates and badly designed.
Traffic demand estimates had come down in the latest studies for the project from original ones while the number of lanes had been increased to four from two and costs had soared as well, Kumarage has said.
“Traffic demand had been over estimated because we have not grown that fast,” he has told the forum.
“Railway already has a speed advantage,” Kumarage has said. “Now speed is not a problem running to Kandy – we need more trains and more people will go.”
Businesses engaged in rail transportation could grab this opportunity to present to the government of Sri Lanka several projects aimed at uplifting the country’s railway sector at a lesser cost than the proposed expressways as well as develop supplementary infrastructure along with it.
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