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Sunday, 24 August 2014

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Colombo's transport network takes new shape

The development projects that are transforming Colombo and suburbs have given a clear message to the public: Colombo metropolitan area is now fast becoming a well-planned urban centre that can compete with any other emerging urban centre in the world.

Urban transport system development project for Colombo Metropolitan region and suburbs

The initiatives taken by the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development have enabled many under-developed areas such as city streets, parks, public areas, canals and lakes to turn into attractive and accessible places for the people, giving the public to enjoy the true benefits of peace.

When the Colombo city and its suburbs are getting more and more attractive, focus is also drawn to the inconveniences the public is facing when travelling to and from the Colombo metropolitan area with the increased flow of vehicles and people into the city centres.

The rapid development of the economy and the increasing per capita income of the people will contribute to get this situation worse as more and more motor vehicles are expected to be added to the city roads.

If the public transport systems and the city roads are not capable catering to this increasing demand thus compelling the public to spend hours to pass a few kilometres within the city there is no argument that the country could not reap the true economic benefits.

To address the issue of convenient public transport and easy accessibility to Colombo metropolitan region, the Ministry of Transport with the technical assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) undertook a two-year comprehensive study to prepare the Colombo Urban Transport Master Plan.

Monorail system to be introduced

Japan's Vice-Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Manabu Sakai handed over this comprehensive study report to Transport Minister Kumara Welgama and Ministry Secretary Dhammika Perera on August 19.

According to Additional Secretary, Ministry of Transport J.M. Thilakarathna Banda the two year long study has been able to identify practical solutions to public transport issues faced by motorists and the general public when visiting the commercial capital.

Corridors

Through this study seven transport corridors; Galle Road, Horana Road, High Level Road, Malabe Road, Low Level Road, Kandy Road and Negombo Road have been identified as most important corridors to provide solutions considering the transport volume, urbanisation level, population density and the transport network function.

"This study has provided possible solutions for each corridor by suggesting the improvement of the existing transport systems and introducing new modes of transport which are widely available in developed countries and in the region", he said.

J.M. Thilakarathna Banda
Additional Secretary - Planning,
Ministry of Transport

"For instance, the study has identified monorail or sky train as a practical solution for the heavily congested Malabe corridor which is having the highest number of private vehicles compared to the other corridors", he said.

Apart from the Malabe corridor the study also highlights the necessity to have a monorail network connecting major city centres such as Kollupitiya, Kotahena, Fort, Slave Island, Hospital Square, Borella, Rajagiriya and Battaramulla.

The introduction of the monorail system has been identified as the most feasible solution as it can be implemented within a short period due to minimum land acquisition required for its simple beam structure.

"Feasibility studies are now on to identify the most suitable trace for the project and also the most appropriate monorail system for a country such as Sri Lanka, prior to the implementation of the project with the availability of funds", Thilakarathna Banda said.

The study has also identified a Bus Rapid Transit system which provides easy accessibility to the city through public bus transportation system through the introduction of an exclusive lane for buses with required infrastructure for the service.

The Transport and Logistics Management Department of the University of Moratuwa has undertaken the feasibility study to implement the Bus Rapid Transit system on the Galle Road from Moratuwa to Pettah.

"A team from the University of Moratuwa led by Prof. Amal Kumarage is now conducting the feasibility study on the Galle Road trace to implement the Bus Rapid Transit system for the Galle Road once financial requirement are fulfilled", he said.

A feasibility study will also commence with the assistance of the University of Peradeniya for the implementation of the BRT system for the Kandy Road as suggested in the report.

Many cities across the world have introduced BRT system as a solution to provide easy access to the city centres overcoming the heavily congested roads.

Solution

"Introduction of BRT system has been identified as a solution for the Galle Road and Kandy Road as they are heavily congested during peak hour traffic. However, the implementation of the BRT requires basic infrastructure, sometimes exclusive lanes for the buses and specialised buses and the facilities to operate this service", he said.

Implementation of such service within the Colombo city will encourage the public to use public transport modes against using private vehicles to enter the city.

"Introduction of these systems are vital at this juncture as public transport systems are rapidly losing its share in the transport sector with the increased usage of private vehicles" he said.

According to the study the percentage of people using buses and trains as their transport mode has dropped from 74 to 58 from 1985 to 2013. The private mode of transport has increased from 26 percent to 42 percent during that period.

"Through the introduction of these new transport modes we are trying our best to discourage private vehicles from entering the city as it becomes a hindrance for the smooth functioning of the city. At the same time it is difficult to further expand the road network in the city to facilitate the increasing number of private vehicles entering the city", he said.

However, introduction of new transport modes alone will not improve public transport system in the Colombo city. "It requires more convenient infrastructure facilities for the public to attract them towards these transport systems. Therefore, the study report has also highlighted the necessity to develop the Pettah area into Multiple Transport Hub to facilitate easy access to these transport modes through one network", he said.

The study report highlights the necessity to develop Multi Modal Centres to encourage people using their private vehicles to shift to public transport systems parking their vehicles at the centres.

"Accordingly 4 MMCs are proposed in Kelaniya, Malabe, Makumbura and Moratuwa and they will be connected to Multiple Transport Hub in the Pettah for the convenience of public to select their public transport mode at one place", he said.

"The concept of developing such Multi modal Transport Hub is to facilitate smooth and easy access to all transport modes, ensure the safety of the pedestrians by separating the pedestrian and vehicle circulation through an elevated deck, providing comfort for the public by providing them with natural ventilation in the open air and elevators and escalators", he said.

Rooftop

The conceptual design of this Multi modal Transport Hub propose to have three floors; ground floor for the intra provincial bus terminals, second floor for the inter provincial bus terminals and a rooftop shopping mall area. This will also provide access to the proposed monorail station, BRT service and also the present railway station. According to the initial designs the first floor will consist of 150 shops while the second floor will consist of 350 shops and the rooftop 58,000 square metres for shopping area.

Each floor will be designed with air conditioned waiting area and shops adjoining the bus departure bays.

This centre will also provide eating facilities for those awaiting public transport, meeting points for passengers, passengers' resting room and hotels for transferring and after travelling and event space for entertainment activities in the public space.

"Due to its connectivity with other transport systems through connecting bridges it will provide easy access to other transport modes such as BRT, Mono Rail and train services within seven minutes", he said.

"If we can implement this project that will boost the image of the Colombo city as the commercial capital city with public convenience. It will also provide easy access not only for public transport modes but also business, commercial and entertainment centres in the Colombo city", he said.

Since these proposals are integrated into the Colombo Urban Master Plan from 2015 to 2035 these projects are expected to be implemented in a step-by-step process with the availability of funds.

"However, we are planning to start the implementation of this project within 2015 with the availability of funds and complete it as soon as possible for the convenience of the public", Thilakarathna Banda said.

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