Following are excerpts from the speech made by Secretary to the Ministry of Transport Dhammika Perera recently at the Forum on Transport organised by the Shippers Academy at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce
I’m delighted to be here at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on the invitation of the Shippers’ Academy.
This morning I intend to share with you the plans and the vision of the Government of Sri Lanka for our nation’s transportation system. All of you will agree that the existing transportation infrastructure is the result of years of neglect, mainly due to the lack of an integrated national transportation strategy.
When the President in January of 2011 appointed me as the Secretary to the Ministry of Transportation, he together with the Minister of Transport gave me one clear mandate – the development of a transportation master plan for the next 30 years that will progressively see the transportation system evolve on par with an advancing GDP and per capita income.
I am pleased to note that today the Ministry of Transportation is actively strategising towards the development of an integrated, multi-modal national transportation system. Allow me to elaborate.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ‘Mahinda Chinthana – Idiri Dakma’ has spelled out a clear vision for our country to position itself as a regional mega hub, identifying key areas of targeted development. The transportation master plan is therefore being developed in direct alignment with the requirements of this broader national strategy and will support the development of other major sectors, such as shipping, tourism and aviation.
Moreover, the master plan will be built on the premise of a modern transportation system that can economically move people and goods anywhere at any time. Affordability of transportation is therefore a core consideration and a prime factor in shaping the transportation system in the medium and long term. What I mean by this is that we are making a conscious effort towards planning affordable modes of transportation along a scale of time and per capita income.
The foundation of the master plan and indeed the overall vision for the nation’s transportation system is based on efficiency balanced with safety and security. The criticality of accident reduction in strategising for the future can by no means be emphasised enough.
Are you, ladies and gentlemen, aware that every year on average 2,400 deaths occur due to road accidents in Sri Lanka? That over 24,000 are injured per annum? That, by the end of today over 150 road accidents will be reported? Thus, the onus of the master plan is to address safety issues and progressively eliminate the factors and conditions that contribute towards this prevailing environment of risk.
Another vital area that the master plan will address is the creation of a transportation system that is environmentally compatible. At the end of the day, you will agree with me when I say that through the progressive execution of this master plan, the ultimate outcome will be that of a better quality of life for all Sri Lankans.
So on a very macro level, I have outlined the strategic expectations for the nation’s transportation system. Let me now take a few minutes to brief you on railway development initiatives that have been conceptualised and are in the pipeline.
The designs for the new rail line from Matara to Kataragama have now been completed and construction will commence in four phases. This line has been designed in a manner in which trains can operate at 120km/h.
Also in the offing is the design and construction of the Kurunegala to Habarana line that will connect to the Eastern rail line. Plans are underway for the reconstruction of rail lines and stations in Medawachchi, Thalaimannar, Omanthai and KKS.
With passenger convenience in mind facilities at railway stations are being revamped with parking, better rest and waiting facilities, differently-abled access and greater consideration for safety. Recently, we introduced an advanced booking facility via Mobitel for the Colombo-Kandy trains and hope to cascade this facility for other lines. Overall in terms of rail infrastructure, plans are in place to improve coaches, and for the introduction of MRT and BRT systems in the medium term.
Railway property development will in the first phase be commissioned along the coastline corridor and will comprise of 12 stations. It is the intention to utilise a public private partnership model for this project.
In the long term, the creation of a rail linked integrated logistics management hub that connects rail, ports and airports is an integral part of the master plan. As all of you are aware, Sri Lanka is very much on the verge of becoming a strategic global shipping hub. The completion of the Hambantota Port and Galle Port development project will position Sri Lanka as one of the most efficient transhipment centres in the region.
To enhance our competitiveness as a nation, it is vital that the ports are connected to the national rail network, reducing the current bias towards road transport. Nationally, in the current context, rail based freight transport only accounts for 1% and has led to poor productivity as well as a high economic cost of road congestion.
Thus, the proposed concept is to establish a number of industrial parks for value additions, warehousing complexes for multi-country consolidation and re-distribution and container storage yards as well as service areas, all of which will be linked through a rail network.
The proposed dry ports will be established close to industrial promotion zones and in close proximity to our key ports and the international airport. As such, locations in Veyangoda and Ratmalana have been identified as viable locations for the development of dry ports.
In moving forward the challenges are enormous. In order to modernise the existing transport system, it is necessary to enhance and develop new capacities. Whilst the Government will invest into transport infrastructure development, the role of public private partnerships will define the success of the Government’s efforts towards the execution of this master plan.
We are hopeful that fruitful collaborations between the Government and Sri Lanka’s business community will shape a modern transport system in the medium term. We look forward to working with the industry as partners in the coming months and thank you all for being at this forum.
FT Key Takes
In the offing:
- The designs for the new rail line from Matara to Kataragama have now been completed and construction will commence in four phases. This line has been designed in a manner in which trains can operate at 120km/h.
- Design and construction of the Kurunegala to Habarana line, which will connect to the Eastern rail line in the offing.
- Plans are underway for the reconstruction of rail lines and stations in Medawachchi, Thalaimannar, Omanthai and KKS.
- Overall in terms of rail infrastructure, plans are in place to improve coaches and for the introduction of MRT and BRT systems in the medium term.
- Railway property development will in the first phase be commissioned along the coastline corridor and will comprise of 12 stations.
- Establish a number of industrial parks for value additions, warehousing complexes for multi-country consolidation and re-distribution and container storage yards as well as service areas, all of which will be linked through a rail network.
- The proposed dry ports will be established initially in Veyangoda and Ratmalana close to industrial promotion zones and in close proximity to our key ports and the international airport