- The ferries are available from 7.00 am to 9.00 pm during the week
- The final intention of these projects is to make Beire Lake as the finest tourist destination in the Colombo area
Turning a new chapter in the transport service in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation (SLLDC) under the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development has taken steps to launch a luxury passenger ferry service from Colombo Fort to Union Place through the Beira Lake as a pilot project in mid-August.
This pilot project will be launched in line with the proposed Inland Water Transport service.
The project is implemented under the guidance of Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka and with the leadership of SLLRDC chairman Roshan Gunawardane vice chairman Aruna Gunawardena and Deputy General Manager Dr. N. S. Wijayarathna. Nevertheless, the Sri Lanka navy also plays a vital role in this project in providing necessary ferries operating the service and providing rescue crew in house.
Solution to heavy traffic
Due to heavy traffic burdens on main road corridors within the Colombo Metropolitan Region, it has proposed to identify the potential uses of waterways which can be used as inland water transport system.
Inland water transport system has been identified as a possible option to mitigate the traffic congestion in Colombo region.
The following three inland water transport lines have been identified by the Megapolis Transport Committee as potential routes,
1. Wellawatta –Battaramulla Line (IW1) approximately ten kilometers
2. Fort –Union Place (along Beire Lake) (IW2) two kilometers
3. Mattakkuliya –Hanwella (along Kelani River) (IW3)
Speaking to Dailymirror , a member of IWT Project Development Team Ranoshi Siripala (Ecologist) said when considering IW1 and IW3, the cost that had been estimated for ferries, was considerably higher than the IW2 in terms of their distance. Thus, Fort to Union Place via Beira Lake service would be implemented as a pilot project for a period of two years after which the implementation of other projects under a Public Private Partnership model will be considered.
“In IW1 and IW3, we have to deploy ferries in every ten minutes. It means that we have to have at least 07 ferries in each line which is huge cost for those ferries and other infrastructure.
Therefore, it was decided to implement IWT as a pilot project at Beira Lake as it has a good demand for such a service and it could be implemented easily as it requires a minimum number of ferries and other infrastructure due to the shortest distance.
With the launch of this service, it is possible to travel from Colombo Fort to Union Place in less than 15 minutes though it takes more time than that of road transportation in peak hours. The boat service has been identified as an ideal solution to ease traffic congestion
Fort –Union Place
(along Beire Lake)
“Considering the ferry service from Fort –Union Place, there will be two ferries which will accommodate 50 passengers each and we will provide the opportunity for passengers to travel with zero fare in first one month,” Miss. Siripala said.
The ferries are available from 7.00 am to 9.00 pm in the entire week.
She said they were also hoping to introduce recreational opportunities while the passengers enjoy their journey.
One objective of Inland water transportation project is to get people engaged in water and thereby reduce the discharge of water pollutants to those water bodies. It should be noted that the water quality of Beire Lake is also getting better due to the continuous efforts that has been taken by SLLDC.
The final intention of these projects is to make Beire Lake as the finest tourist destination in the Colombo area.
“With the launch of this service, it is possible to travel from Colombo Fort to Union Place in less than 15 minutes though it takes more time than that of road transportation in peak hours. The boat service has been identified as an ideal solution to ease traffic congestion,” Miss. Siripala said.
Since this is a new experience to the present day Sri Lankan public, it is necessary to study the potential uses of the canal transit and estimate the demand for the new transit mode for public transport, leisure activities and other social activities.
This indicates the higher tendency of private vehicle usage due to inefficient public transport system in the study area. Percentage share of buses on roads that runs along the canal is less than 5% of the total. This shows the potential of the canal transit system developing as a public transport mode provided affordable, faster and comfortable service which is not available at present. The second highest percentage of transport accounted by three wheelers from 13 –33 % depending on the traffic of the area. As the three wheeler usage is high, we can expect people to use boats as a transit mode even though the travel cost is more than the normal bus fare. At the same time the private vehicle owners would prefer the boat transit since their travel cost will be reduced.
Meanwhile, the first observation tour of the boat service by the Sri Lanka Navy recently took place under the patronage of the Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, Patali Champika Ranawaka.
Considering the ferry service from Fort –Union Place, there will be two ferries which will accommodate 50 passengers each and we will provide the opportunity for passengers to travel with zero fare in first one month
Connecting East-West direction of
Presently, there is no proper connecting mode in the East-West direction in the Colombo region, unless the prevailing bus services cater to that necessity. The use of available canal network could provide this facility and has the potential to reduce the travel time drastically on these and other travel corridors. By using the existing canal systems, strong east-west transport connectivity can be generated for the commuters’ convenience.
Benefits through water transport system
Implementation of the water transport system will benefit travellers in other ways. Comfortable air conditioned boats will ensure a smooth comfortable ride for passengers. At the off peak periods, especially at night time this system can be used to promote ecotourism around the Colombo city making this city an active and an attractive area during night time as well. This will add a facet to the city’s transport infrastructure.
Boat jetties can be placed at main linking points where the canals cross the main roads and in other places where necessary improving the accessibility and the inter connectivity between other modes.
The Wellawatta-Battaramulla route has the most potential to provide an urban transport solution. It intersects 6 main roads including Marine Drive, Galle Road, High Level Road and Baseline Road,
Nawala Road and the Parliament Road out of which 3 of them are main 7 corridors. This is one of interventions identified under the Megapolis plan that can come into action immediately. The detailed feasibility study for this line, conducted in 2004, has to be updated to reflect current conditions, and also to determine whether the route can be linked or extended to the surrounding ocean.
The shuttle boat service proposed in the Beira Lake from Fort to Union Place route will save a lot of time for passengers who have to use bus service to connect these points especially during peak time.
The line along Kelani River from Mattakkuliya up to Hanwella route has high potential to provide an alternate mode for the low level corridor where the public transport is poor. The feasibility of the line has to be conducted, including determination of whether the route can be linked or extended to the surrounding ocean.