For the first time in the history of Sri Lankan Railways, development of electrically-powered railways will begin with financial aid from the Asian Development Bank, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said yesterday. He told news media that the Asian Development Bank had approved a loan worth 160 million US dollars (about Rs. 28.4 billion) to modernize the operations and improve the efficiency of the greater Colombo suburban railway service.
This will include installing a modern multi-channel electronic ticketing system, including a smart card, to replace the current cumbersome printed ticketing system, which requires
tickets to be printed on custom-made paper for over 60,000 ticket combinations. The Railways will also build a new operations headquarters and a control centre to replace the existing one which was originally built in 1962.
The agreement with regard to this is scheduled to be signed today (20) at the Finance Ministry.
Addressing a media conference held yesterday at the Temple Trees, Minister Ranthunga said that the loan has been approved for the implementation of some sub-projects and 36 purchases.
According to the Minister, the Railway tracks from Maradana to Avissawella on the Kelani Valley Line, from Maradana to Rambukkana on the Main Line, Colombo Fort to Kalutara South on the Coastal Line and, Ragama to Negombo on the Puttalam Line will be upgraded and electrified with the funds provided by the ADB.
Ranathunga said that improving efficiency the railway could attract more commuters. According to data provided by the Ministry, in 2017 the railway carried 136.7 million passengers and 2 million tons of goods by operating an average of 351 passenger trains and 19 freight trains daily.
In addition to the US$ 160 million provided by the ADB, the government will finance part of taxes and duties and contingencies for a total of US$32.0 million. Project Director Palitha Samarasinghe, explained that under the Railway Efficiency Improvement project the operational efficiency, maintenance capacity, safety management, skills development, and implementation capacity of Sri Lanka Railways (SLR) would be addressed.