Transport Professionals Endorse Railway Modernization and Electrification at 15th John Diandas Memorial Lecture
The late Mr. John Diandas
Expert in Public Transport
Prof. Amal S. Kumarage – Chairman John Diandas Memorial Trust Fund
The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, Sri Lanka held its 15th John Diandas Memorial Lecture held on Friday 28th July at the Institute of Engineers, Sri Lanka. The lecture was presented by Mr. Rodolfo Martinez who elaborated on the progress of the current study funded by the Asian Development Bank. He outlined the current status of the suburban network, traffic forecasts and went on to present the engineering details of the project. The first phase would be 70 km section from Panadura to Veyangoda will have 23 stations. He also revealed that the station to station commercial speed would be around 40 km per hour, once modernized and electrified.
Railway electrification in Sri Lanka has been mooted over several decades by transport professionals and engineers alike. In recent times, the CoMTRans study funded by JICA also endorsed railway electrification, followed by the validation study by the University of Moratuwa in 2015 which even recommended the possibility of new railway lines to be electrified such as from Kelaniya to Kosgama. The Megapolis Transport Plan also confirmed electrification.
Mr. Martinez presentation was followed by a panel discussion where I was joined by Mr. Palitha Samarasinghe, Project Director, Railway Electrification Project and Dr. Tilak Siyambalapitiya, Member of Institution of Engineers Committee on Railway Electrification. The audience raised many questions on the details of the project and made a number of constructive suggestions for consideration in the next stage of the detailed feasibility study and design. The discussion included the consideration of the freight services and infrastructure required especially for the movements of port related cargo, the consideration of railway station development as integrated transit oriented development with private sector participation, the improvement of access to the stations and the calculation of future demand under a low, medium and high growth scenario so that investment can be justified. Mr. Samarasinghe stated that some of these factors could not be considered under the current scope of study and agreed that they can be included in the feasibility study and design stage. He also revealed that the ADB is to mobilize another study to investigate the modernization of the railway network in suburbs of Kandy. Funding was also sought for station development. There were also inquiries from the audience on the adequacy of the electricity supply and on the potential for using renewable sources for back-up power stations. Dr. Siyambalapitiya responded stating that the railway electrification would require only around 1% of the current supply and that renewable sources could only be used as a supplementary source of power.
It was stated that the electrified railway serving five different corridors in Colombo will have the potential to carry over 1.4 million passengers per day by the year 2035 and that additional tracks would be necessary in some sections as the demand grows. The electrification project also proposes to ensure modernization of the railways including modern carriages, electronic ticketing, improved signaling and communications etc. Railway crossings would also be made safer. The seamless rail, improved track and ballasting will ensure a much more comfortable ride. Railway electrification is seen as the long term solution to road congestion with the modernized railway being able to attract private vehicle users to a higher quality service. This project scheduled to enter the construction phase in 2018 would be a major boost to modernizing Sri Lanka’s urban transport and a primary means of positioning public transport to manage road congestion.