Highway robbery
5.3% of economy lost!


By Ifham Nizam

Prof Kumarage

Sri Lanka’s land transportation system is costing its economy more than 5 percent of GDP; Around 3.3 percent of GDP, or Rs. 185 billion, through wasted time, accidents, congestions and supply chain losses, while healthcare costs caused by road related accidents are estimated at 2 percent of GDP. The government’s budget deficit this year is expected to be 6.8 percent of GDP, last year it was 7.9 percent.

University of Moratuwa Senior Professor and Transport and Logistics Management Head, Professor Amal Kumarage, fears Sri Lanka would not be in a position to cope with the increasing number of vehicles in the near future.

Prof Kumarage said a staggering Rs. 20 billion was lost due to wasted time in public transport per year, congestion costs amounted to Rs. 35 billion a year, accident costs Rs. 30 billion and supply chain losses amounted to much more than Rs. 100 billion.

The total cost of Rs.185 billion amounts to 2.76 percent of GDP in 2010. Healthcare costs related to road accidents are estimated at 2 percent of GDP.

Prof Kumarage said the number of 3.2 million operational vehicles on the street killed between 2,000 and 2,300 persons each year, causing one in 50 deaths due to road accidents.

Prof Kumarage also estimates there are around 5,000 premature deaths caused by harmful vehicle emissions.

With the country’s per capita income expected to double within the next few years, the number of motor vehicles in Sri Lanka would increase sharply.

"We have to manage with as little infrastructure as possible," Prof Kumarage said.

Addressing a seminar recently at the Central Environment Authority in Battaramulla, he said the trend was such that in almost all countries where income levels rose, there were significant increases in vehicle ownership.

"I strongly believe public transport should be given priority. The railway network is more suited and the foundation for improvement has always been there, but the opposite done," Prof Kumarage said.

He said the government was encouraging innovation and the modernisation of the transport sector, using technology to ensure greater passenger convenience, improved management, developing a sustainable transport system.

He added that it would include improvements to standards of vehicles, passenger terminals, safety and security systems and control systems that improved reliability.

Prof Kumarage said special and urgent attention should be given to the development of ICT-based solutions.

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