Transport  history  in the making       LRT project launched in Colombo

Transport history in the making LRT project launched in Colombo

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History was in the making just a few days ago at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, when the Colombo Light Rail project was ceremonially launched. The Light Rail Transit – widely known as LRT – is a project funded by Japan, to the tune of USD 2.2 billion. The project is a collaborative effort between the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry and the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA).

The transit will connect Malabe and Colombo Fort with a modern light train service. It links strategically and commercially important locations such as Borella and Battaramulla. The proposed transit follows the centrelines of the present road network through 16 train stations and one depot area. The depot, which will be erected in West Malabe, serves the purpose of maintenance as being well as the train yard.

The LRT will be Sri Lanka’s long-sought strategic and structural solution to shift the country from its current middle-income status to an upper-middle income level. This is a basic initiative launched by the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry to develop the major aspects of transportation.

The Megapolis and Western Development Ministry was introduced to the country’s ruling machinery, as the incumbent government came to power in 2015. The Ministry is tasked with the responsibility of providing a master plan to solve the problem of traffic congestion in the Colombo Metropolitan area by introducing an alternative transport system.

Sri Lanka, a country in which more than 90 % of the population rely on the road network, badly needs an alternative transport system. The past few years witnessed the rapid growth of numbers of motor cars, buses and motorcycles on the road. At least one million people enter Colombo on a daily basis. The usual travel speed remains at 20 km/h during the peak hours. At times, the figure shrinks down to the 10 km/h level.

For instance, a commuter who wishes to reach Battaramulla from Colombo Fort will be able to do so within 20 minutes during the off-peak hours. Yet, this is beyond imagination during peak hours, when the duration of the trip will be at least 40 minutes. As both Colombo Fort and Battaramulla are equally important, owing to the administratively and commercially important buildings located in between, such a delay will have a hazardous effect on the country’s overall economic structure.

This ultimately leads to grave concern about the country’s transportation. The Light Rail Transit, therefore, will be a welcome move.
A railway solution comes in even handier, owing to its congestion-free movement.
The intention of introducing the Light Rail Transit is clear. The transit provides the commuters with a comfortable, safe and reliable mode of public transportation. The proposed LRT route connects crucial stops, such as Colombo Fort, Town Hall, National Hospital, Borella, Rajagiriya, Battaramulla and Malabe. This route provides access to business centres, schools, hospitals and important government offices such as the Department for Registration of Persons and Department of Immigration and Emigration, as well as to transport nodes connected to other important places.

And the best news is yet to be heard. The travel time between Malabe and Fort will be around half an hour. This duration may be relied upon, owing to the traffic-free corridor. The ease of the commute is another facility that the urban citizens can now look forward to. Concurrently, the traffic situation along the LRT route will also change. Private vehicle users will be encouraged to take up this mode of transportation – which will ultimately reduce the congestion. A smaller quantum of private vehicle users means the Western Megapolis will have a city with less air pollution and traffic congestion.

LRT Benefits
1. Eases traffic congestion in Colombo and its surrounding areas
2. Reduces travel time of passengers and commuters.
3. Improves connectivity of strategic locations and transport hubs.
4. Increases accessibility of places along the route
5. Provides a comfortable, reliable and safe alternative mode of public transportation.
6. Enhances air quality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.