Japan’s Special Peace Envoy to Sri Lanka, Yasushi Akashi will represent the Japanese government at Sunday’s ceremonial opening of the Southern expressway which has got sizable assistance from Japan, officials said on Tuesday.
Hideki Ishizuka, Minister/Deputy Head of Mission at the Japanese embassy in Colombo told reporters this week, at an informal briefing in Colombo on Japan’s contribution to Sri Lanka’s first expressway, that Mr Akashi was a good choice as the representative from Japan as peace and reconciliation was taking place in Sri Lanka.
Mr Akashi’s last visit was in July 2009 to speak at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s annual economic summit.
The 126-km expressway from Kottawa to Galle to be opened by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is jointly funded by Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asian Development Bank.
JICA provided Official Development Assistance concessional loans worth Rs 50 billion (Yen 36.2 billion) to construct 67 kms of the 4-lane expressway. The ADB, in which Japan is the main donor, funded the balance stretch of road.
The Japanese part, construction of which was handled by Taisei Corp – Japan, includes the 695-metre bridge over the Bentara Ganga, the longest bridge in Sri Lanka. The expressway will have more than 300 toll collection centres while 1,300 families were re-settled with all compensation claims met.
The Southern Expressway will allow vehicle speeds of 100 km/h without signals, dramatically reducing the travel time between the sea and air ports of the commercial capital, Colombo and the commercial centers of the Southern Province, Galle, a JICA statement said.
It said the section from Kottawa to Pinnaduwa in Galle District, together with the Galle Port Access Road will be opened on Sunday while the Pinnaduwa – Godagama section is expected to be completed in 2013. Initially only a manually operated toll system will be used for toll collection. The system will be expanded to include a touch-and-go card system, and ETC (electronic toll collection), which is also financed by JICA, in the near future.
Expressway facilities include four emergency coordination centres, two maintenance offices, a traffic operation centre and a rest area with essential facilities. A special expressway police unit together with fire and paramedic crews will be deployed in the expressway for emergencies and to assist with traffic operations, JICA said.
Vehicles required for operation and maintenance including special vehicles such as tow-trucks, cranes, fire engines, ambulances and police vehicles are jointly financed by JICA and ADB, the statement added.
Under the JICA’s technical cooperation, two Japanese long-term experts who are from expressway management companies in Japan, and several Japanese short term experts have provided training and shared their knowledge and experience with over 300 toll collection and traffic management staff.