Sri Lanka to seek bids for 1st urban railway project

Upul-JayasuriyaSri Lanka will seek international competitive bids to select operators for its first urban railway project, the head of the country’s investment agency said.

Upul Jayasuriya, chairman of Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment, spoke to The Nikkei while on a visit to Japan about Sri Lanka’s urban railway project. The plan is for a 30-kilometer commuter railway connecting the center of Colombo with its suburbs. The operation would start by 2019.

The government is considering of introducing either monorails or subways, according to Jayasuriya.

The government of Sri Lanka asked the Japan International Cooperation Agency for a feasibility study, hoping to attract Japanese companies to the project. The total project is expected to cost around $2.5 billion. If Japanese companies can win orders, it will likely boost infrastructure exports promoted by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

A consortium of companies capable of civil engineering work, delivering railway signaling systems and operating trains is expected to participate in the bidding. Bids will be accepted by the end of this month.

Traffic congestion has become a serious problem in Colombo, to the point that it is affecting economic growth. In January, at the request of the Sri Lankan government, JICA finished a feasibility study on the introduction of urban railways. This study helped convince the government of the need to improve the country’s public transportation.

Many rapidly growing cities across Asia are looking to urban railways as an environmentally friendly option for easing congestion.