Toll collected to maintain Expressway
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
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
Q: Do you think the RDA could overcome those challenges
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
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
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.