Sri Lanka’s transport reforms lack political will: Kumarage

Apr 22, 2016 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s politicians should lead from the front and drive much needed transport reforms which have evolved through changes in social and economic conditions, a senior official told LBO.

“Vehicles gridlocked in Colombo traffic is something we are all familiar with by now. But what are we doing about it?” Amal Kumarage, senior professor of the Moratuwa University’s Department of Transport & Logistics Management said.

“It is the politicians who must be willing to give proper leadership for transport reforms with proper planning in place.”

He says the country’s leaders must break away from the model that prosperity is owning a car.

“They should also try to use public transport.”

Many experts have said that modernising public transport is an urgent requirement while taking cars off the roads which are getting increasingly jammed with vehicles is also a good idea.

A few years ago, the traffic congestion was largely limited to the Colombo district but now it has spread to the entire core area lasting sometimes most of the peak period.

According to a recent study on managing traffic congestion in Colombo and the suburbs, roads are full with traffic congestion as an average 250,000 vehicles, made up of 15,000 buses, 10,000 trucks and 225,000 private vehicles, enter Colombo daily.

“We need to do something quickly, as the average road speed in the Western

Province has now come down to 19-17 k.m per hour.” Kumarage says.

“With the situation the country is in now with regard to debt, low investment options like park and ride, high occupancy vehicle lanes and Carpolling are also good options.”

Low-cost Options

As Sri Lanka’s people are getting tech savvy and mobile network reaching deepest part of the country it is not far from adopting carpooling/ride sharing app which can connect people travelling in the same direction.

“Carpooling is a natural fit to the local environment as it solves the major problems related to commutation, which are traffic, high pollution, insufficient transportation options and costs.” Kumarage said.

“Even if there is 10 percent drop in vehicle use by using carpool, this will have an impact on the overall congestion.”

But the challenge is how to make the concept of Carpooling in Sri Lanka ‘Cool’, not young, college cool, but just something that you should be doing.

Some experts say that these challenges are not technical or financial but psychological.

Most people don’t want to Carpool, even if they think it’s a good idea primarily because of what others would say and because they feel it’s beneath them.

The concept comes under the large umbrella of shared economy, which a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers report on the global market, estimated at 15 billion US dollars today, a figure that is projected to hit 335 billion US dollars by 2025.

Meanwhile in the Budget 2016 the FInance minister introduced the the “Park and Ride” concept which will be implemented before the end of September 2016.

The main objective of the project is reducing traffic on the roads by attracting private vehicle owners who motor to the City daily.

According to the proposal, vehicles coming to the city will be required to carry a minimum of 4 passengers and a fee will be imposed on any vehicle that does not do so.