Sri Lanka road and port projects take off

Sri Lanka is opening two new expressways as part of a growing network of new infrastructure projects in the island nation.

By Pradeep Seneviratne

Colombo-based trader and frequent flier Mohamed Fahim says he loves his new drive time between the city and Bandaranaike International Airport

.Sri Lankans look at cranes on the premises of the new Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) on August 13th. Sri Lanka is investing billions of dollars in port infrastructure as well as new expressways to shorten transit time on the nation's most travelled corridors. [Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP]

Sri Lankans look at cranes on the premises of the new Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) on August 13th. Sri Lanka is investing billions of dollars in port infrastructure as well as new expressways to The 39-year-old now reaches the airport at Katunayake in a fraction of his old commute.

“At least once month, I go abroad to purchase fancy items from Chennai and Bangkok. Then, I ship them to Colombo. Time is very important for a businessman like me,” Fahim told Khabar South Asia.

“During traffic hours, it took more than an hour for me to reach the airport from Colombo. Now, it is reduced. I am happy because I can save time. Also, it will improve efficiency in my business activities,” he said of the new Colombo-Katunayake Expressway.

The 25.8-kilometre toll road opened October 27th, just ahead of November’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo.

The Rs. 38.1 billion ($292 million) high-speed road is part of a network of new expressways Sri Lanka is building to speed up transit times along some of the nation’s most heavily travelled corridors, government officials say.

On January 26th, President Mahinda Rajapaksa will inaugurate the Pinnaduwa to Matara stretch of the new Southern Expressway, Ministry of Highways, Ports and Shipping Secretary Ranjit Premasiri told Khabar.

The project’s first phase, connecting Kottawa (near Colombo) to Pinnaduwa (near Galle), opened in November 2011, cutting transit times between Sri Lanka’s largest city and Galle to about an hour from the previous three-hour drive time.

There are plans to connect the two expressways to a ring road being built around the metropolitan Colombo area, to be known as the Outer Circular Highway.

“All the expressways will be connected with one another. It will improve connectivity and boost the economic growth,” Nirmila Kotalawala, Highways, Ports and Shipping Projects Minister told Khabar.

Suranga Silva, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Colombo agreed, adding that the opening of the new airport road could only boost Sri Lanka tourism and other important industries.

“A European tourist arriving in the airport after a long haul flight will not be happy if it takes hours for him to reach the Colombo city,” Silva told Khabar. “According to economics, there should be proper connectivity between consumer and manufacturer. Time factor is very important in the case of the transportation of goods manufactured. Therefore, the economic benefits from an expressway are enormous.”

2020 Vision

The expressways are part of the government’s plan to build up and modernise the nation’s infrastructure.

Last year, Sri Lanka opened the first phase of its new Hambantota port. Now it plans to build an international airport for Hambantota. Big plans are also in store for the Port of Colombo.

As part of a project to expand and fully upgrade the port by 2020, the country just constructed the Colombo International Container Terminal, a $400 million-breakwater facility that can handle 2.4 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) per year.

“Our plan is to increase the total container-handling capacity of the Colombo south port to 7.2 million TEUs. There are two more terminals to be completed,” Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Managing Director Nihal Keppetipola told Khabar. “With the rapid economic growth in the region and the increase in shipments, there will be a greater demand for cargo handling in the Colombo port.”

Under an ambitious plan to consolidate Sri Lanka’s strategic position as a naval, aviation and commercial hub in the Indian Ocean, the government in 2005 had identified a need to expand Colombo’s port, SLPA Chairman Priyath Bandu Wickrama said.

“We need a fully-fledged port in Colombo to facilitate international trade. The port, with its expansion, will make a greater contribution to the national economy,” Wickrama told Khabar.

[Via Khabar South Asia]

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