Colombo - Katunayake Expressway:
A boon for the economy, a blessing for commuters
The Colombo-Katunayake Expressway was Sri Lanka's latest addition to
its fast growing road network, and it was vested with the public on
October 27. President Mahinda Rajapaksa commissioned the expressway and
unveiled a plaque at a function held at the E-03 Kelaniya entrance on
the morning of the 27th.
The Colombo – Katunayake Expressway
Sri Lanka’s second E Class Expressway with a length of 25.8 Km,
linking Colombo with the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA),
Katunayake had cut down the travel time of daily commuters and will
boost economic growth in the country in many ways, many Western Province
“During the last 20 years, we only heard about an expressway project,
but this year we witnessed its opening and I believe it's like a dream
come true for Sri Lanka. This Expressway would actually save a lot of
time,” a daily traveller to Colombo who earlier used the Colombo -
Chilaw Highway said.
According to him, it had taken over two hours on busy traffic hours
and sometimes one and a half hours to travel to Colombo from Katunayake
and Negombo. But now, he is able cover the same distance almost within
an average time of 15 to 20 minutes via the the public transport
available on the Expressway.
Meanwhile, another commuter, Shalini Pathirana pointed out that ever
since the Expressway opened, she had been able to travel within an hour
to Colombo from Negombo on the normal highway that used to steal over
four hours from her daily man-hours for the last five years, ever since
she started to work in Colombo.
“Some days I travel on the Expressway, but when I feel that there’s a
huge crowd waiting in the queues for the Expressway buses, I take the
normal highway route and still I have cut down over two hours from my
travel time,” Pathirana said.
Luxury coach service
The Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) has already launched a luxury
coach service including 26 bus turns per day on the Colombo - Katunayake
Expressway route and the bus services commenced from the Colombo Central
Bus Stand travelling to Katunayake and the Negombo bus station.
The bus fare is Rs.150 from Colombo to Negombo while from Colombo to
Katunayake, the fare is Rs. 130.
According to the SLTB, the bus service will also be introduced
between Colombo and Ja-Ela in the near future for which Rs.100 will be
charged as bus fare. With the boom in commuters who seek to travel via
public transport on the Expressway, many privately-owned public
transport services including private bus operators and some cab-services
operating on the Colombo - Negombo route had experienced a large drop in
their passenger numbers.
“Now I have seen many private bus operators leaving the Negombo or
Colombo bus stations on time because they have started witnessing less
people getting in to their buses unlike earlier when the private bus
operators used to, sometimes, even demand a higher fee since they had
monopoly status to run luxury intercity express services on the Colombo
- Negombo route.”
“It’s worth a ride and I am always early for the morning meetings
which I missed many times, and half of my daily salary is now saved, and
I hardly cross the red line on punching my fingerprint on the scanner
machine at office thanks to the Expressway and the luxury coaches,” a
junior investor who travels from Katunayake to Colombo on a daily basis
On the other hand, the daily commuters on the Colombo - Negombo
highway had experienced a drop in numbers and further reduced travel
time since an average of over 2,500 to 3,000 vehicles are now taking the
Expressway instead of the normal highway.
“As industries and companies, we have got the opportunity to save our
fuel bills, time and employees' man-hours,” said an export manager of a
manufacturing establishment in Colombo that sends several export
shipments to the Katunayake Airport via air cargo.
He said their containers that take the normal Colombo - Katunayake
route had cut down travel costs due to less traffic that affects the
fuel consumption of engines, while the company had been able to send
shipments that are being transported via lorries on the expressway
Managing director of a Colombo-based distribution chain and equipment
manufacturing firm said that even though it cost Rs. 600 per day to
travel to Colombo and return on the Expressway, it is worth it since it
has saved a lot of travel time from his daily routine.
“I have saved over 90 minutes from my travel time, and there were
days that I had to stay over at the office until the rush hours pass,
from 4:30 pm – 8.00 pm, until the traffic fades away on the Colombo -
Negombo route.” He said, smiling, that now he is able to go home early
and leave home even slightly late, allowing a little more time to spend
with his family.
Reduced travel time
This fee-levying Expressway had drastically reduce the time taken to
travel between Colombo and Katunayake with an average of 20 minutes and
had lessened traffic congestion on the Colombo - Puttalam road.
“We believe Sri Lanka’s second expressway will create a faster road
link between the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) and Colombo,
the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. And once all the expressways are
completed in the near future, there will be a direct link through
expressways from Matara or Kandy to the BIA, Katunayake. It will
undoubtedly help boost tourism in the country,” A.M. Jaufer, President
of the Chamber of Tourism and Industry said.
Earlier, it had taken over one and a half hours to reach Colombo from
Katunayake. The new Expressway has reduced the travel time to 20
minutes. It will provide hassle-free travel to Colombo for overseas
visitors arriving at the BIA,” Jaufer noted.
The maximum speed on this four-lane Expressway is 100kmph and a
number of international standard features have been added to ensure the
safety of motorists. Special attention had also paid during construction
to preserving the natural environment as the Expressway winds its way
through the Muthurajawela marshes and the Negombo lagoon.
Sound barriers are also in place to control noise pollution.
The Expressway also has communication facilities placed at frequent
intervals to assist motorists during emergencies.
The entire extent of the E-03 is covered by CCTV cameras and 54 large
screens at the central operation room at Seeduwa to help authorities
monitor the Expressway 24 hours of the day. Emergency exits have also
been established for emergency casualty evacuation.
An economist, on the grounds of anonymity, pointed out that the
Western Province, being the province with an over five million
population and Colombo being the commercial capital with many daily
commuters travelling in and out of the city, the Colombo - Katunayake
Expressway is indeed a ‘need of the hour’ since it had reduced over
500,000 man-hours of more than 150,000 people who are daily contributing
to the economic activity of the country.
He notes that more efficient public transport systems and expressways
that cut down travel time on heavy traffic routes will indirectly
contribute to economic growth in terms of creating lower demand for
imported personal vehicles that in turn create a healthy exchange rate
for the rupee, saving man-hours of the country’s workforce and labour
force while eliminating various socio-economic problems that affect
family lives of the society that in turn increase turnover rates of
“I believe the Government’s decision on investing in such
infrastructure facilities is commendable,” he said.