Sunday, September 24, 2023

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Colombo Light Rail Transit (LRT) project resumes with a new setup

By: Staff Writer

Colombo (LNW): The Japanese funded Colombo Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, which was suspended by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration, is to resume shortly, Cabinet spokesperson Minister Bandula Gunawardena confirmed.

Cabinet spokesperson Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe obtained Cabinet approval for resumption of the Colombo Light Rail Transit (LRT) project project.

He said that a decision was also taken to ensure future projects are terminated only with Parliament approval.

The project was suspended following a letter issued by the then-Secretary to the President on the 21st of September 2020, citing that the project was not the appropriate cost effective transport solution.

A special audit report by the Auditor General of Sri Lanka revealed that the decision to suspend the project cost the country Rs. 5.978 Billion.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe had recently expressed regret to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida over the decision taken to suspend the Japanese funded Colombo Light Rail Transit (LRT) project.

During an official meeting in Tokyo between President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the President had emphasized the need for future legislation in the Parliament to ensure that bilateral large-scale projects cannot be halted or canceled without the agreement of both parties.

The new administration is set to renew the LRT project contract with JICA loan facility due to its favorable conditions including low interest rates and the grace period of 12 years which was completely ignored by the previous regime.

The Urban Development Authority (UDA) will call for expressions of interests soon from interested international firms or joint venture companies to build the necessary infrastructure and implement the project, Urban Development and Housing Minister Prasanna Ranatunge disclosed.

It has ben planned to operate the light rail transit service to complete the journey from Malabe to Colombo Fort in 30 minutes.

Light train is scheduled to arrive at a station every 4 minutes during peak hours and operate a train every 10 minutes during off peak hours, senior official of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) said.

On the advice of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Presidential Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera had instructed the Ministry of Transport Services Management to review and terminate the project and close the project office with immediate effect at that time.

He cited the reason for this action and a subsequent cabinet decision in favour of it to the high cost incurred for the LRT project and it was not being the appropriate cost effective transport solution for the Urban Colombo transportation infrastructure.

The consultants started work in early 2019. Their seven-year contract was signed with the Ministry of Megapolis and covered detailed design and related engineering services, procurement assistance, construction supervision, testing and commissioning as well as defect liability check.

The Government has not yet settled a claim of around Rs 5 billion from the project consultants Oriental Consultants Global of Japan and Sri Lanka’s Consulting Engineers & Architects Associated for the work already done, expenses and loss of profit caused by the cancellation of the project in 2020.

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