Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 20 November 2011





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Government Gazette

Toll collected to maintain Expressway

R.W.P. Pemasiri

Road Development Authority Chairman R.W.P. Pemasiri in an interview with the Sunday Observe regarding the opening of the 'Gateway to Wonder ' on November 27 expressed his views.

Q: A date has already been fixed for the opening of the Southern Expressway. As the key agency behind this project what is the preparation of the RDA for this event?

A: We are expecting to open the Expressway which is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka on November 27 under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We have already made preparation for this grand event. We expect to open on schedule on November 27 and permit the people to make use of this facility for the first time in Sri Lanka.

Q: There was speculation that the opening of this Expressway is being done without completing the scheduled construction work. What do you have to say about this?

A: There is no situation like that. The construction of the road has already been completed. Apart from that, we have also completed the work of the toll gates which are there to facilitate the entry-exit points of the Expressway. If we talk about the earlier plans to open the Expressway, three four months back, at that time we were not ready with the construction as some sections had to be completed. Therefore, we had to postpone the opening. We will be able to open the Expressway on schedule.

Q: That means you can assure that the road stretch from Kottawa to Galle been completed?

A: Yes, I can give that assurance.

Q: The flow of traffic towards Colombo through this Expressway is scheduled to enter High Level Road. There are huge traffic snarls on High Level Road even under normal circumstances. Therefore, how do you plan to ease traffic congestion on High Level Road parallel to the opening of the Expressway?

A: There is huge congestion on the High Level Road from Nugegoda to Kottawa. We decided to improve the road section from the Kottawa interchange of the Expressway to the Nugegoda flyover on the High Level Road as a four-lane road. That process is going on now. We are expecting to complete the work parallel to the opening of the Expressway except for one section in Pannipitiya. Once that section is complete, congestion on High Level Road will be eased to a certain extent. Apart from that, to facilitate vehicular traffic, we are also improving the Pannipitiya – Thalawathugoda road also into a four-lane road after widening it. That work is in progress now and we are expecting to complete the work also soon, to ease traffic flow with the opening of the Expressway.

Q: The Southern Expressway was there in the plans of successive Government for quite a long period. Now it has become a reality. What are the challenges faced by the Road Development Authority and other agencies when making this dream a reality?

A: The first challenge was that we had to construct the first Expressway under this project. And this has to be constructed as an access control road. Therefore, in some areas the road has to be constructed some meters above land. In some sections the construction was done on the ground itself. Therefore, we had to facilitate other roads to fall on to this road by constructing overhead bridges.

The greatest challenge was the acquisition of land since this road was constructed in new terrain. We had to acquire land required for this entire project at once. We had to acquire 10,000 land blocks. We also had to provide alternative lands and houses for displaced people and construct houses that were

damaged. That became a social issue and we had to face a lot of problems due to the issues.

Another situation was that we had to blast so many rocks which were there on the terrain. Environmental problems created from that were unexpected ones. Due to damage to property and the people, there were many protests. Looking into their grievances and solving their problems became yet another 'project' within the main project. That was totally an unexpected 'project' and we had to go before courts. We had to suspend construction work of the Expressway for one year due to court case.

Q: Do you think the RDA could overcome those challenges effectively?

A: Yes, of course. We faced all those challenges effectively and that is why we are able to open this road on schedule. There were delays in the construction work due to these challenges but we were able to overcome all the lapses when we are completing the project.

Q: Due to certain incidents like the collapse of bridges and certain other incidents people were in doubt about the Southern Expressway getting off the ground. What is the guarantee that you can give that there will be no incidents?

A: There were problematic situations at the initial stages due to bridges collapsing and some flaws in other bridges. We have been able to correct all these flaws and can assure 100 per cent that such situations will not arise.

Q: In terms of international standards, has the Expressway met with these standards?

A: This Expressway has been constructed according to international standards. Our standards are based on British standards and we have constructed the Expressway according to British standards.

Q: What are the issues you have identified that may arise with the opening of the road and what kind of solutions are you having for these issues at present?

A: The biggest challenge and concern we have with the opening of the Expressway is about road safety, because this is the first time Sri Lankan drivers are benefiting from an Expressway in Sri Lanka.

They are not trained. Therefore, they have to strictly follow lane discipline. It will take short while to teach them. Many of our drivers are employed in other countries and they drive vehicles there without any problem. I think they will learn things fast. Till then we have to take it up as a challenge.

Q: How are you prepared for accidents?

A: Since vehicles are expected to run at high speed, possibilities of accidents on this road are more. To face such situations we have established a separate emergency service unit for this road. We have a paramedical unit on the Expressway, the Police and Special Task Force is handling this paramedical unit. The Fire fight unit has been set up to face such emergencies.

Q: This is the first Expressway, there are many more Expressways on the cards. What kind of plan does the RDA have?

A: We are now in the process of constructing the Colombo–Katunayake Expressway and Colombo Outer Circular road. Apart from that we are expecting to extend the Southern Expressway upto Matara by 2013 and further extend it upto Hambantota in the near future. We are also planning the Colombo-Kandy Expressway. Apart from this we are planing to widen the Southern Expressway into a six-lane road.

Q: Is there any program for passenger bus services to ply on the Southern Expressway?

A: We are not allowing passenger buses to operate on the Expressway soon after the opening. After discussions with the National Transport Commission, we requested them to import new buses that are suitable to ply on the Expressway and deploy them later.

Initially we asked them to deploy five buses. After initial evaluation of the flow of vehicles on the Expressway and the levels of accidents reported we will allow passenger buses to operate on the Expressway are taking safety of passengers is our main concern.

Q: With the development of Expressways in the future what challenges does the Road Development Authority will have to face in the future?

A: This is a big challenge. Earlier we had the experience of maintaining other roads. We have to concentrate for 24 hours for this Expressway. On other roads we did not have to pay so much attention. We have to commit ourselves round the clock.

Q: How did you prepare to take up this challenge?

A: We trained staff. We trained them how to make use of this road, how to issue tickets, how to charge fees. We are deploying 500 RDA staff for this and Police also deploying more than 400 personnel for the security and monitoring of the vehicular traffic.

Q: With these changes is there any possibility for the RDA to become yet another institute to calculate profits and losses in the future?

A: There is no such idea. We are charging this fee to maintain the road. Since drivers are expected to speed, this road has to be maintained properly. We have to brush the road, wash the road and maintain the surface for users to travel comfortably. We are not doing this on ordinary roads.

But on this road we have to do all this on the entire stretch. We have to overlay the surface after ten 15 years. These are expensive processes. Therefore, we have to depend on the toll collection to fulfil those tasks and not earn profits.


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