$ 600 m modern metro rail project to steam ahead; KPMG hired for study
By Cheranka Mendis
Airport Express Air and Rail Company (Pvt) Ltd. yesterday announced its decision to invest US$ 600 million on a new transportation venture, a metropolitan railway system running from Katunayake to Fort.
Construction work is likely to start in 2013 for what will become Sri Lanka’s first metro express electric train service and end in 2016, aligning with the ‘Mahinda Chinthana – Idiri Dekma’ plan of development once the feasibility study is completed by KPMG India.
The final results of the study will be handed over to Airport Express Air and Rail Company by end April this year.
Airport Express Air and Rail Company Chairman Dr. Parimalan Rajo Isa Michael noted that the project had been given the go-ahead by the BOI. The first such project for the company, he noted that a period of six months would be taken after the results to raise the necessary finances. Finances will be raised by selling stakes of the company’s equity to overseas companies which are willing to invest in the country.
“Right now the economic situation is such that foreigners are confident to put money into the country. We are confident that we will be able to raise the required capital.” He also acknowledged that the venture was entirely a private sector investment with no money coming in from the Government of Sri Lanka.
With the metro railway system, it will take only 25 minutes one way to travel between the two terminals, one at Katunayake Airport and the other at Fort Colombo built in close proximity to the Fort Railway Station with two parallel railway lines running to and from these two destinations.
The proposed railway route would go along the Airport Road, then cross the Negombo Main Highway and the Negombo Lagoon and connect to the new Katunayake Expressway. It will then be constructed in parallel to the main expressway along its 30-metre reservation area for an approximate distance of 30 km until it reaches the town of Wattala.
Here it will cross the Negombo main road yet again and from the Hunupitiya Railway Station it will travel alongside the existing railway line until the cross-over at the Kelaniya River. At this boundary, the new railway track will go across the river on a modern bridge and reach its final destination, the Fort Lotus terminal.
He noted that the Lotus terminal would be situated at a site with amazing potential for urban integration. The Lotus Terminal site will comprise of an architecturally modern and versatile 32-storey tower, which would function as a city centre for local and foreign businessmen who would be spending just a few days in the capital city.
The terminal tower will contain a hyper-mall, multiplex cinema, casino, a spiral viewing tower, city hotel, conference and convention centre, food courts, bowling alley , game arcades and a health centre, including spas, salons, saunas and massage centres along with its very own ayurvedic garden.
Sky bridges or underwater tunnels will link the terminal tower to the Fort Railway Station, main bus terminals and the two main roadways leading to Fort. To give the short-stay tourists an overall taste of the City of Colombo, a shuttle bus service will commence from the new railway which would link all the main hotels, popular up-market shopping centres and other places of interest within the city.
The plan is to charge Rs. 500 from local travellers and US$ 50 from foreigners, Michael said. The metro will be able to carry 400 passengers at any given time and would run nine journeys per day. He stated that the venture would provide employment to some 2,000 persons.
“It will be exactly like the ones we see in Hong Kong and Malaysia. It is a known fact that tourist arrivals increase when better transportation facilities are provided. Our aim is to ease traffic congestion to and from the airport and provide the country with a new mode of transportation.”
He noted that Government parties had shown keen interest in the project and that Economic Development Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena had issued a letter of consent, calling on relevant authorities such as Airport and Aviation and Sri Lanka Railways to coordinate with the company.
Michael asserted that the next plan after the implementation of Katunayake-Fort line would be to have one connecting Maradana to Gampaha. “However, we are now focusing on the project at hand and are awaiting the feasibility study. Upon the success of phase one and its viability in covering costs, we will embark on the second project.”
Noting that the project would be an icon in contemporary infrastructure development in the country with a high importance on socioeconomic development within the local community, KPMG Executive Director on Advisory Services and National Industry Head in Transport and Logistics India Manish Saigal stated that the metro rail would improve the country’s profile.
“We will be carrying out a complete techno commercial feasibility study of the project. We will focus on areas such as understanding the requirement of such a system in the city, benchmarking it against the likes of KL, Singapore and Hong Kong and examining the route, viability, costs, etc.,” Saigal said. “We will also analyse if the monorail or metro is the best suited for the country.”