Cancellation of Colombo Suburban Railway Project – Blunders of Plunderers By Dhanuka Dickwella

If a man’s ego is way bigger than his own life, it could bring more damage to him as well as & an entire nation. I have nothing personal against the well known academician cum Public servant who lambasted the “Colombo Suburban Railway Project ” as if it means nothing but a big scam.

Colombo Suburban Railway Project was not merely a project needed to meet Sri Lanka’s transport needs. It was way bigger than that. It could have transferred the entire city of Colombo to a futuristic ,modernized, urban landscape. While primarily serving as an artery of transport , connecting thousands of suburban communities to Colombo, the upgrade would have completely face lifted Colombo. Thousands of shanty dwellers would have found modern, comfortable accommodation uplifting their basic living standards.

My effort is not to mention the tens of thousands socio economic benefits of the project. But just to highlight a few important points which the EX GM of Sri Lanka Railways deliberately missed to point out or avoided. One of his primary arguments is that the project will only shorten 5 minutes of the entire travel time in-between Colombo & Avissawella. This project however is not an effort to connect Avissawella to Colombo. I am sure everyone will agree that once you pass Homagama , we are not anymore in Colombo suburbs although we are very much in the district of Colombo. If you look at the High-level road , the last major town area is Homagama. It does not mean at all that Avissawella is of any less significance. But if you are a Train dweller on this KV line , you would know that other than the guard, the engine driver there is only a handful of passengers who would take the daily train from Avissawella. Majority of the crowd starts to flock in from Padukka station onwards. So it makes perfect sense to have the first phase of the project from Colombo fort railway station to Homagama.

The intellect also mentioned the fact that there won’t be a way to have a cargo compartment on this track. The fundamental mistake here is that how you define the KV line as a whole. Even today there is hardly any cargo that comes from or to Fort railway station from Avissawella. Although this line was originally built for that very purpose by the British decades ago. However times are different & things have changed completely from what it was. The needs are not the same as then. This railway line is nothing but a Passenger line period. So why do you have to worry about a need that has not been a need at all for the last century ?

Almost every five minutes a bus takes off from Homagama, Kottawa & Maharagama towns towards Pettah. There are other routes that gets connected from Paadukka , Athurugriya , Maategoda towards the same destination using the High level road. Virtually every single minute there is a bus that keeps traveling through the High level road. They carry a vast amount of passengers on a daily basis from morning till night throughout the day. Colombo Suburban Railway Project will work on an electric train that traverse through the KV line from Homagama to Fort every seven minutes. Needless to say that thousands of passengers who use the buses daily will opt for this less trafficked , airconditioned train service instead of buses. Unless you are lobbying for the private bus owners , no one in the right mind would oppose this valuable project. It will not be just the bus passengers who will seek refuge with the new railway project. For daily car uses this will be a god given opportunity to travel with comfort & luxury without wasting half their life in front of traffic lights. Basically there will be much less vehicles on the road thus paving way for a clean , uncongested modern city.

The argument about the cost factor is noteworthy. It sounds as if the elevated line is a massive scandal. Lets look at the option that was de facto suggested by the Ex SLR GM. If you go for a double track , you will have to remove thousands of houses, business premises , schools & what not. Instead of making a better Colombo , it will create a real havoc among thousands of communities who live or own houses & business closer to the KV line. But that seems to be fine with the gentlemen. Not only the double track will inconvenience an enormous amount of people but also it will compel the government to pay millions just for the evacuation & relocation. The double track will have to be run with the same Chinese or Indian built non AC diesel trains. So instead of heading towards future we are taking a U turn towards stone age. There are 72 rail crossings on the KV line. By using the elevated line there wont be any hassle for road users. It will save millions of money just by avoiding road blocks for 8 trains that goes towards fort in the morning it self. How naïve one could be to argue that the rail crossings do exist even in the western countries. People of Sri Lanka should fight for this project. It is our future. Let us not let one man’s view ruin a whole new generations aspirations.

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