The Finance Ministry has sought Cabinet approval for the implementation of a Mass Rapid Transit Project (MRTP) in Colombo connecting the Port City with Negombo through rail links, the Daily Mirror learns.
However, the programme is mired in controversy since the National Agency for Public Private Partnership (NAPPP) declared earlier it as an unsolicited, unviable project with negative cash flows.
A company named Colombo MRT Systems Pvt.Ltd, had submitted the proposals for the development of this rail link between Colombo Port City and Negombo with a branch line from Katunayake to the Bandaranaike International Airport.
The company later appointed CRRC Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co. Ltd to carry out a detailed study on the project. The project involves the implementation of the rapid rail project on Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode. The MRTP will consist of 40.9 kilometres with 25 stations.
The length of the mainline will be 37.421 kilometres and the branch line 3.431 kilometres. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera sought Cabinet approval to execute the project subject to changes to be made by the National Planning Department in compliance with the National Policy on Public Transportation.
Also, he seeks approval for a Cabinet Appointed Negotiation Committee (CANC). The project is to be implemented as a solution to increasing traffic congestion in Colombo. The population of the Colombo metropolitan region is expected to increase from 5.8 million to 7.9 million by 2035. The region has an employment of 2.1 million.
By 2035, it is bound to increase to 2.9 million. However, the NAPPP considered this proposal way back in 2017 and observed the capital expenditure for the project was US $ 2.474 billion. The NAPPP is under the view that the benefits from the project was not justifiable with the financial cost and risk. It said in its observations at that time, that the Colombo Suburban Railway Project funded by Asian Development Bank, should be prioritised.
It involves the electrification and modernisation of the rail links of the western coast and the line from Ragama to Negombo. The proposed project involves negative cash inflows during the initial 15 years of operation, amounting to US $ 93 million annually. The NAPPP says the project cannot be justified further because there were other transport links such as the expressway catering to commuters travelling between Negombo and Colombo. (Kelum Bandara)