By Yohan Perera and Sandun A. Jayasekera
Sri Lanka’s railway (SLR) sector is slated to embark on a modernization programme as the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation slated to make some key changes with the assistance of Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The ADB has pledged assistance to the tune of USD 160 million to the government to develop the railway system.
Minister in-charge of the subject Arjuna Ranatunga told a media briefing yesterday that the Ministry plans to introduce an online ticket sales system as one project.
“The project will improve three operating bottlenecks by: (i) procuring an island-wide, long-term evolution (LTE/4G) equipment to replace the telecommunications system installed in 1985, installing a modern multi-channel (paper, mobile, and smart card) system to replace the cumbersome ticketing system, which requires tickets to be printed on custom-made paper for over 60,000 ticket combinations. He said ticket vending machines will also be installed in stations so that commuters could obtain tickets conveniently without staying in a queue at the station counters. Also it has been planned to construct a modern operations headquarters and train control centre to replace the current headquarters that cannot accommodate all operational departments of SLR, and the outdated control centre opened in 1962 to monitor railway operations in the Western Province.
“ The Output Railway- safety improvement project will support civil works for the construction of housing apartment blocks to enable the future resettlement of encroachers on the right-of- way of the Kelani Valley line. Over, 2,000 households live on the right-of-way within a metre of passing trains, resulting in frequent accidents and low speeds. The project will also upgrade an old railway underpass between two major stations of Colombo, and upgrade traffic and pedestrian safety. Finally, the project will support improvements of passenger safety and information system at Colombo Fort and Maradana stations, which are the largest stations of the network,” the Minister said.
The other project focused on, will be the upgrading of the Technical training centre. The Sri Lanka German Railway Technical Training Centre (SLGRTTC) will be upgraded with a new training wing, a train simulator, and equipment packages to support the modernisation of four curricula and the development of over six new curricula.
The centre, established in 1983, produced 83 graduating students in 2017 from four technical and vocational curricula as mechanics, diesel engine mechanics, electricians, and welders. While it is well-maintained and provides a valuable source of staff to SLR, its facilities and curricula need to be improved to support the long-term modernization programme and changing set of skills requirements of SLR.
The government has devised a systematic plan the relocate people along the Kelani Valley (KV) line corridor. In funded projects, the house-for-house programme is part of the government’s policy for the resettlement of informal dwellers. The government will provide proper housing facilities for informal dwellers, who have been identified prior to the cut-off date 14.08.2017. The UN Habitat, was engaged by the government and carried out a baseline socio-economic survey and prepare a resettlement implementation plan. This notably ensures high-level of transparency and confidence in the preparation of the future resettlement. We have estimated that around 2,600 families are living along the KV line corridor.
The SLR is working very closely with ADB from the start of the KV line railway programme to ensure compliance with all ADB policies. Around 300 housing units for informal dwellers in the KV line will be provided under the Railway Efficiency Improvement Project. Around 1,240 housing blocks have been already purchased from the UDA. The balance housing blocks too will also be purchased from UDA.
Another innovate project which SLR is to undertake according to the Minister is the pilot project to transport garbage from Colombo to a dump beyond Puttalam. This, the Minister said will be an experimental project.