Southern Expressway: Let’s stick to the speed limit. As a frequent user of the Southern Expressway, I would like to comment on an article in the Business Section of the Sunday Times on September 29 under the heading ‘Motorists bemused by Southern Expressway speed limits and rules’. I was indeed amused to read that several [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Letters to the editor


Southern Expressway: Let’s stick to the speed limit.

As a frequent user of the Southern Expressway, I would like to comment on an article in the Business Section of the Sunday Times on September 29 under the heading ‘Motorists bemused by Southern Expressway speed limits and rules’. I was indeed amused to read that several owners of modern vehicles had said it was ‘difficult to adhere’ to the maximum speed limit.
The speed limit of an expressway is not determined by the type of vehicles, but by the design and structure of the road. The Southern Expressway comprises two lanes up and down and without even a proper service lane. The width is barely sufficient for human reaction in an emergency at speeds higher than 100km.

The speed is unlimited on German autobahns which are extremely wide, but the top speed on US expressways where there are four lanes plus a service lane is limited to 55 mph (about 90 kmph). Many of the world’s super cars such as Bugatti Veyron are capable of reaching 200 kmph (125 mph) but are being driven on US highways at the specified speed. 

You may note that nearly all accidents that have occurred so far on the Southern Expressway are due to vehicles going out of control and hitting the protective barrier, and not one another. This is most probably due to excessive speed and lack of experience in handling a vehicle at high speeds.

The Southern Expressway runs parallel to the coast though some kilometres interior. Thus, any driver on the expressway can experience turbulence, similar to what an aircraft pilot may face when flying at high altitude or landing. Only an experienced driver would be capable of keeping a car under control on an expressway in cross wind and head wind that he may encounter at high speeds. Present models of small cars are built lighter and run on standard tyres to improve fuel economy. Drivers of such cars are more prone to losing control of their vehicles in turbulence at high speeds as standard tyres tend to lose grip of the road surface unless they are fitted with aeronautical aids such as spoilers.

I do not agree with the statement that the expressway is not manned by policemen with portable radar traps, but fines are decided at the exit point on the basis of the time taken for the journey. On this basis a driver who spends some time at the rest area will be fined for ‘obstruction’ because he took more time even though he drove the entire journey at 100 kmph.

During my journeys on the Southern Expressway I have seen many policemen hiding behind the pillars of overhead bridges. They immediately radio the description and registration number of a vehicle being driven at excessive speed to all exit points once they note the offence on radar. This includes other offences such as incorrect lane changing. Probably, the motorist who made the statement was not aware of this. Being observant is a key factor when driving on an expressway, for that matter any highway. 

One important fact the authorities should keep in mind is not to allow un-roadworthy vehicles and overladen heavy vehicles on the expressway. They can cause accidents. In addition, the continuous run by over-laden vehicles can damage the road’s surface and weaken the structure. During my travels I have seen weighing bridges at the entrance to many toll-ways in Europe and the US.

In conclusion, let us be happy that the journey to Galle, which once took nearly three hours can be made today in an hour. Travel to destinations further south will be greatly reduced once the extensions to Matara and then on to Hambantota are completed. 

May I reiterate once again that top speed on an expressway is determined on its design and capacity and not by the vehicles plying on it. Furthermore, increasing the speed limit just to satisfy owners of ‘modern vehicles’, is not going to be an easy task.

Owners of high performance super cars may request the speed limit be increased even further because their cars are capable of higher speeds and can get them to Galle in 15 minutes. And then arises the question, “What is the speed limit on the Southern Expressway?” Let us drive safely at the current speed limit and enjoy a drive on “one of the most picturesque expressways in South East Asia”, as a foreigner who travels much in the region told me recently.

OohGee , Via email

A blatant rip-off

On 30/10/2013 I received an SMS on my Etisalat phone stating that I would be entitled to 10 minutes free overseas talk-time ( for a stipulated named countries) if I accepted this offer by registering with them by SMS. I did so immediately. My SMS did not last a minute but I was charged Rs.84! Then I was informed by SMS again “You have successfully activated the IDD daily package. 10 minutes will expire at 12 midnight 2013/10/30.”

When the offer was made there was no indication that the offer would expire the same day, nor such an exorbitant charge be levied for the SMS that did not last even a minute. That was step 1 in their rip-off. I did not know that was more was to follow. 
Anyway, a few hours later I made a call to Australia (a country that was within their offer) that lasted 5 minutes and a few seconds. This is, obviously, well within the 10 minutes as per their offer. But I was horrified to note that I was charged Rs.145.

When I inquired from the Etisalat administrators, including a letter of protest which I handed over to their Battaramulla office on 31/10/2013, I was eventually informed that I must have picked the wrong offer stating that I must have spoken to a mobile number and not to a land line. However, when the offer was made there was no such stipulation. In fact, even yesterday another offer – without any stipulation as usual – was sent to my phone by SMS!!

I am writing this letter so that other subscribers will not be ripped off in this manner. 

M.Wijesinghe, Talangama South

Complete the Kandy Lake’s footpath project

The Kandy town is called `sleepy city’ by many tourists. It could be because of the lack of events in Kandy to make it attractive to tourists or may be its poor night life. May be it is in deference to the location of the Sacred Temple of the Tooth.
But I refer to the Kandy town’s beautification programme carried out by the Kandy Municipal Council (KMC).

Many agree that the Kandy Lake and its famous footpath around it need to be to be maintained properly. Earlier the footpath was not totally cemented or paved, yet it posed no danger to pedestrians.

Two years ago, we noticed some modernisation work taking place around the lake and we were pleased. But soon we realised the bitter truth that the work is moving at snail’s pace .

Heaps of broken pieces of concrete are scattered here and there. The lake’s footpath is in a terrible state. During night time, pedestrians run the added risk of falling into the gaps because there is inadequate light from the street lamps which also need a thorough service.

I believe the modernisation work may be not a well planned or adequately funded one but a piecemeal job to fit the budget of a cash-strapped council. We cannot rule out the possibility that some corrupt political henchmen have made a fast buck from the project.

Now as I pass by the lake I look at the incomplete portions of the path and the plight of the pedestrians. Such a shoddy job tarnishes the image of the city. The Urban Development Authority which is doing a great job in Colombo and other areas must take over the project and complete it.

Lal Ruwan Bandara, Hanguranketha

GPS devices can end Indo-Lanka fishing row

Fishing in the seas north of Sri Lanka has caused many problems to both India and Sri Lanka. As a solution, boats and trawlers should be equipped with GPS devices, which will warn the fishermen the moment they cross the international maritime boundary line.

It is also possible for such equipment to be fitted with a recording device so the movement of the boats can be later checked by the Navy or coast guards of the two countries. It will provide legal evidence to support the charge that one country’s fishermen have crossed the border of the other country. It is about time a device similar to the “black box” in aircraft, is designed and fitted in all the fishing boats and made a legal requirement. It will not add a major financial burden to owners of fishing boats or trawlers. 

This will bring an end to the poaching crisis. There is always the case of the poor fishermen who can only afford a tiny boat and a couple of oars — but I doubt that they will venture so far as to cross the maritime boundaries.

Dr. Yapa Wickramasinghe, Via email

Save the poor litigants from lawyers

After gaining independence from the British, our so-called intellectuals introduced systems and brought in changes in every field to the detriment of the country and its people.  They did away with the bicameral system and made parliament unicameral.

In the Health sector, they got rid of apothecaries as the medical professionals thought it was demeaning to have a lower grade in their profession. Professional engineers are trying their level best to deny middle grades entering universities and receiving higher education. 

Then in the legal field, there were two categories of lawyers — proctors (solicitors) and advocates. The amalgamation of the two and the creation of a single category known as attorneys-at-law has led to the skyrocketing of legal fees which has become almost unaffordable to the poor litigants.

While law graduates passing out of universities receive free education, attorneys have to pay for their legal education. As a result, some of them have become business minded. One should not forget the judges were at one time practising lawyers charging fees from their clients. Action should be taken to prevent lawyers from fleecing poor litigants who are in dire financial difficulties.

Sith Arawinda P.Mutucumarana Via email

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