Sri Lanka Railways received a USD 160 million loan from Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the implementation of an efficiency improvement project which envisages the modernisation of the infrastructure and operations, as well as the signalling system. The total cost of the project is USD 192 million, with the Government of Sri Lanka providing USD 32 million. The expected project completion date is the end of 2024.
The railway efficiency improvement project will finance the modernisation of the country’s railway system to improve the operations, maintenance, safety, skills development, and technical capacity of Sri Lanka Railways.
The project will provide a modern multichannel, paper, mobile, and smart card – ticketing system, and will also install a state-of-the-art telecommunications system, which will replace the original system installed in 1985, and allow for two-way communications with train drivers and reduce train delays. The loan will also finance a new operations headquarters and train control center, provide infrastructure and equipment for the maintenance of track and rolling stock, and improve railway safety. The technical training center of Sri Lanka Railways will be upgraded and new courses will be developed to provide future graduates with knowledge of modern railway technologies.
Under the project, detailed studies will be performed which include a study for the Kandy suburban railway network, another one on transit-oriented development and land value capture, and on and the modernsation of the information technology and maintenance capacity of Sri Lanka Railways. Another study will also be realized for the preparation of a railway asset inventory and a land management strategy.
Currently, Sri Lanka Railways transports 136.7 million passengers and 2 million tons of goods annually. The market share of the railway sector has progressively declined over the years, while the country’s railway infrastructure is overdue for significant upgrades and modernization. The network’s signaling and telecommunication systems are outdated, and the paper tickets are manually printed for all ticket classes and station pairs.
Sri Lanka Railways owns 250 diesel locomotives and multiple units, but only about three-quarters of them are operational and half of the fleet is more than 30 years old.
“An improved railway system will help promote the development of services and industries across Sri Lanka, as well as put the railway as a viable transport mode of choice for the people. This is particularly the case in suburban Colombo, where the impacts of traffic congestion are strongly felt by all road commuters as vehicle numbers have doubled between 2008 and 2018, while rail commuters often face overcrowded trains,” ADB Transport Specialist, Johan Georget, said.