Sri Lanka’s monorail plan shelved; light rail on the cards
The Government has abandoned the widely anticipated monorail system for Sri Lanka and instead opted for light rail in the short run as a remedy to heavy traffic congestion in Colombo, official sources revealed. Light rail is a metropolitan electric railway system which operates single cars or short trains along exclusive right of way at ground level, aerial structures in subways or occasionally on streets and to board and discharge passengers at track or car floor level. Monorail is an elevated system in which the track consists of a single rail.
The Economic Management Committee (EMC) appointed in January under a directive by the Prime Minister has decided to recommend this system since the Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka clearly indicated that light rail was the feasible transport mode for the Colombo city. According to official documents, Minister Ranawake has informed the committee that light rail is cheaper in maintenance when compared with mono rail. Under a Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) study, an overhead light rail system was suggested as the more cost-effective option rather than a standard size mass rapid transit (MRT) rail for the Colombo-Malabe corridor with an off-shoot to Kotahena.
Advisor to the Ministry of National Policy Planning and Economic Affairs R. Paskaralingam, had brought to the notice of the committee that JICA concessional funding is available for transport sector development and it has made a request from the Sri Lanka government to decide on whether assistance is required for monorail or light rail, EMC minutes revealed. Accordingly a decision has been taken by the committee to go for light rail instead of monorail as traffic at each of seven corridors in Colombo is not sufficient for monorail. Recently a contract was signed between the ‘Airport Express – Air & Rail Company (Pvt.) Ltd.’ of Malaysia and the Government of Sri Lanka to start an Electric Train System between Negombo and Colombo.
AEARC is spending a sum of around US$5 million to carry out a detailed feasibility report on the whole project. The construction work will be implemented once the green light is obtained for the commencement of the proposed project by the Sri Lankan Government. The proposed project comprises 42 km stretch of rail track between Negombo and Colombo Fort- Public transport and integrated transport model. The economic viability for a commuter light rail with the head way of five minutes, establishing passenger nodal point at Dematagoda, which has a high number of transfers with feeder services (bus based), is a better option for Colombo, a senior Finance Ministry official disclosed.