By Sandun A Jayasekera
The Ministry of Finance and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) inked the loan agreement on Monday at the Ministry to obtain Japanese Government loan of a massive US$ 1,850 million (Rs. 333 billion) to construct the Malabe – Fort Elevated Light Railway Line (ELRL).
In one of the most ambitious development projects of the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development, the blue print of the project plans to construct a 26 kilometre elevated light railway line from Malabe to Fort by 2024 to minimize massive traffic snarls on the main highway.
The ELRL is divided into seven phases, with phase 1 encompassing the construction of the part Fort to Union Place, Battaramulla to Malabe, along with the entirety to begin in late 2018/early 2019, and phases 2 through 7 expanding the network throughout the planned Western Region Megapolis.
Under the first phase of the project, the 17 kilometre ELRL comprises 16 stations and a depot that will run from Malabe IT Park to Pettah. The ELRL will connect some of the highly commercialized areas including Borella, Rajagiriya and Battaramulla and will have a station at Town Hall, close to the heart of healthcare for Sri Lankans, the Colombo General Hospital, Eye Hospital, Cardiology Unit, a number of private hospitals. It reduces the current time to reach Fort from Malabe from 90 minutes to 30 minutes in a rush hour.
The proposed LRT powered solely by electricity and comprising of seven light rail transit lines and two high priority lines will have four compartments enabling the carriage of 165 passengers at once. The total cost of the project for the seven phases is estimated at around US $ 6 billion.
Commenting on this major transport development project, Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka said, the government is not implementing projects that will push the country into further debt but only those that will steer the path towards development.
“This project will be a novel breakthrough in the transport sector after 1860, the year in which railways was first introduced to Sri Lanka,” Minister Ranawaka noted.
He revealed of plans to establish three more similar ELRL systems parallel to this project in the form of a public-private partnership (PPP) where they will begin within the first half of next year.
The Minister noted that the US$ 1.7 billion light rail project, one of the key public transport improvements identified in the Megapolis Transport Masterplan will ease congestion, speed up travel time from Malabe to Colombo to 30 minutes from the current 45 to 90 minutes.
“Massive initiative of transportation under Megapolis is the introduction of this ELRL system. It spreads across Colombo and suburbs as a network to cater to the projected demand induced by the proposed Megapolis structure plan by improving the inter connectivity between different modes of transportation such as buses, ferry transportation and suburban railway,” Ranawaka stressed.