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Traffic congestions costs country: Ranawaka

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  • Outlines plans for transforming Colombo traffic, says proper bus systems needed


By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent

The estimated daily loss incurred by traffic congestion in Colombo city exceeds Rs. 1 billion, Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka said in Parliament yesterday, participating in the Committee Stage Debate of Budget 2019, highlighting a university research report.

Patali Champika

According to the Minister, people switching to private transport due to increasing incomes has resulted in vehicle imports increasing, and has led to traffic congestion.

Highlighting the failed attempts to control the congestion, the Minister said: “From 2004, we have spent a colossal amount on building highways, carpeting roads, and other measures to improve the transport and road networks. From 2005 to 2015 of the capital expenditures, 42% was spent on developing the transport sector. In this budget, around 30% has been allocated for the development of the road networks. However, while the Government has spent trillions on road development, this has not been able to solve the traffic congestion on our roads,” he said.

The university research report also reveals that 15% of Colombo land has been utilised for road constructions and widening. Despite the widening roads, the traffic flow has been limited to an average of 30 kmph.

“We needed to look at various other strategies to address this issue. Hence, in 2015 the Highways Ministry, Transport Ministry, and the newly formed Megapolis and Western Province Ministry together took measures to come up with a new basic plan to develop the road networks. Accordingly, we came to the conclusion that within the next 15 years, the number of commuters would double, and we need to come up with a proper plan to be able to cater to their transport requirements,” he said.

“The Road Development Authority and the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry have constructed a road network connected to the main highways. Especially with assistance from the World Bank, a road is being constructed from the port across the New Kelani Bridge to the Port City. In the future, plans are afoot to extend this road to the Fort Multi-purpose transport centre, connecting the Fort Railway Station and Bus Terminal from next year.  This road would also connect from Orugodawatte, Rajagiriya, Parliament Junction, up to Kaduwela. We have also drawn plans to build a multi-purpose transport hub in Battaramulla for train, buses, and private vehicles. The construction for this will be done on a public-private venture,” he added.

Ranawaka said that 99.9% of the buses transporting passengers in this country are not proper buses, but lorry chassis fitted with seats. However, he said the country badly needs proper passenger transport buses. Hence, he said, after much debate it was decided in 2017 that what the country needs is a bus rapid transport system. The Transport Ministry would be taking steps in the future to establish a low floor bus service, which would be proper passenger transport buses.

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