Monorail proposed to resolve Colombo's traffic woes
Colombo, which is getting increasingly traffic-clogged and congested,
is in dire need of a mass rapid transit system that could help reduce
the number of cars on the road. It should be more convenient, faster,
cleaner and equally affordable. Several proposals are being pursued and
there is greater focus on a monorail project, which does not require
(enormously costly) underground tunnelling.
A preliminary meeting was held last month at the Ministry of
Transport on the proposed monorail project. Everyone at the meeting
agreed that this project was a long-felt need and a realisation of the
Mahinda Chinthana pledges on the development of an alternative transport
mode. It was discussed at the meeting that the route from the Fort to
Battaramulla is appropriate due to factors such as high volume of
traffic and the non-existence of a rail track as well as lack of space
for further widening of the road network.
In the first stage, the proposed monorail system will operate 10 km.
parallel from Fort Station (the proposed City Airport Terminal) to
Battaramulla and then in Phase II, 19 km from Moratuwa to Maradana. It
will be extended to Kaduwela later. The technical and administrative
systems of the Fort Railway Station will be modernised with advanced
In the meantime, the Airport Railway and Colombo Monorail (BIA to
Colombo-Airport Express Railway) will be amalgamated and operate
simultaneously to facilitate passengers from abroad from the BIA to
Colombo and vice versa. Passengers flying abroad will be able to check
in baggage at the Fort Railway Station directly.
Government representatives noted that the monorail project will
effectively increase the efficiency of the transport system in the
country and also increase tourist arrivals. It will also be in line with
the recent decision of the Government to introduce a special Act on
energy security. Under this Act, it is expected that 10 percent of the
total import cost of fuel be reduced by introducing alternative
transport modes. A monorail system has been highly recommended in this
The Korean investors of the monorail project were requested to
furnish an economic study and EIA on the route and more details on the
type of technology that will be provided, because the participants were
of the view that the technology must be standard, affordable for
maintenance and compatible with any locomotive system in the world, said
Leelananda Ihalagamage, a spokesperson for the monorail project.
He said that after signing an MoU with the Moratuwa University,
Professor Saman Bandara's services would be engaged for the economic
feasibility and other studies along the route. The actual route tracing
and basic engineering studies will be done in collaboration with Isuru
Engineering, the Civil Engineering Works partner of Garamspace Co. of
Korea, the investor of this project.
Kim Jongik, President of Garamspace Co. Ltd./Garamspace Research
Institute of Korea and members of the project will visit Sri Lanka early
next month, to hold further discussions with ministers and senior
Several participants at the meeting raised the point that the road
leading to Sri Jayawardhanapura is used by the Members of Parliament and
VVIPs when Parliamentary sessions are in progress. Erecting a monorail
over the road on concrete poles in the middle of the road could disturb
VIP movements, they said. Therefore, it was suggested that the clearance
of the Ministry of Defence is needed and a representative of the
Ministry should be called to attend the next meeting. The second issue
is, when diverting the rail track at Borella junction towards a new
road, it should be considered whether the sharp bend is technically
feasible and a possible alternative route should be ear-marked.
The continuous relationship between the Republic of Korea and Sri
Lanka over the past 30 years has shown significant progress in the
investment sector and mutual understanding between the two countries has
been immensely developed.
This relationship was further strengthened through President Mahinda
Rajapaksa's official visit to Korea recently when he was warmly welcomed
by the Korean people.
The Government has taken several measures to develop the
infrastructure sector especially the main roads, other access roads and
highways after the end of terrorism in 2009. Colombo city, the first
stop for tourists and investors, has undergone a vast transformation
since then. Developing a metro area is a big risk and a highly technical
exercise. Sometimes, it takes three to four years to complete
feasibility studies and other related activities. The Government itself
cannot invest alone for this purpose.
Way back in 2008, even before the end of the conflict, the GaramSpace
Company conducted various studies and discussions with the Ministry of
Transport and Sri Lanka Railways on this project, following an
invitation to the President of the company by the Ministry of Transport
to conduct the feasibility study. The Experts' Group of the project
comprises officials from Korea Transport Institution (KOTI), Korea
Railroad Research Institute (KRRI), Busan Transport Corporation (BTC),
Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) and other leading
Korean private sector companies.
This project is part of the New Generation Transit System Joint
Development Program. It also includes the BIA to Colombo Airport Railway
Improvement Project and upgrading the signals and communications system
of Sri Lanka Railways based on Korean Technology.Currently, most of the
basic studies have been concluded and submitted to the Ministry of
Transport. An economic feasibility study, operational study, environment
impact assessment and introduction of system engineering through
research and development have to be carried out.
As Sri Lanka possesses a capable human resource in this sector
(transport engineering) at the Moratuwa University, the consortium has
decided to tap such resources for the benefit of both parties.
There will be opportunities for graduates and undergraduates involved
in the research to get professional training in Korea which will improve
their knowledge of the latest technology on the modern railway systems,
signalling and communication systems. This landmark project will provide
a unique opportunity for ultimately achieving the goals of the Mahinda
The design concept is benchmarked directly from Korea's existing
transportation system. The Incheon International Airport, a gateway to
Korea, is connected to metropolitan Seoul area directly, through the
Airport Express Railway. After getting off from the Airport Express
Railway, passengers can go to any place in metropolitan Seoul by
choosing another subway line.
Although the company cannot duplicate all of Korea's current
transportation systems in Sri Lanka, they will try their best to develop
systems that can benefit people in the Colombo Metropolitan Area
effectively in a practical way. This is one of the successful solutions
proposed for the present heavy traffic jams in Colombo and the suburbs.
The project also envisaged improvements to the railway and other related
technical systems, such as IT-based signal and telecom system, traffic
management system, security management system (CCTV), railway level
crossing protection system and a railway concrete sleepers plant based
on a buy back agreement. The first project steering meeting was held in
January 2010 with the Minister of Transport Kumara Welgama and Secretary
to the Ministry of Transport. Another round of discussions took place in