The Sri Lankan economy loses an estimated US$5 million daily due to traffic congestion in its capital city Colombo. A city bus project was mooted a few years ago but it needed US$5 billion in foreign direct investment. A multi-billion-dollar railway project has also been proposed, and residents say drastic measures are necessary to resolve the ever-worsening issue.
The people of Colombo and surrounding areas always curse the traffic congestion that makes their lives almost impossible. They also blame the government for its failure to tackle the issue head-on. Observers say the main problem is lack of planning, coupled with a failure on the part of the authorities to deal with those who break traffic laws.
A traffic expert writing in a local e-paper called The Island said one important aspect of trying to sort out the problem was judicious timing and usage of traffic lights. These should be set to a computer-assisted or time-controlled operational mode.
“It needs careful study of the movement of traffic across these junctions where traffic lights are already installed. Steps also need to be taken to install these lights in areas where they are really required but are not installed as yet. All traffic lights should have digital clocks so that the drivers behind the wheels can get ready to move decisively once the colours change to green. All vehicles should move promptly when the traffic lights change from amber to green. At present there is a considerable delay in their starting off from the blocks. In addition speed limits should be strictly enforced. Road hogs, who block traffic on the outside fast lanes, should also be prosecuted,” said the expert.
Sri Lanka has a number of excellent engineers, especially those in the Moratuwa University, and people do not understand why they are not requested by the government to come up with a solution to the issue of traffic lights that will enable traffic to flow smoothly.
The problem of traffic congestion causes huge losses for the transport industry as well as for individuals. Hauliers and fleet managers say the congestion causes enormous wear and tear on vehicles and engines that can spend up to four or five hours a day sitting with engines running in grid-locked traffic.
“Trucks, cars and other vehicles are designed to move, not to sit motionless with engines running or revving for hours on end,” said one major fleet operator. The wear and tear on engines caused by this congestion is terribly expensive and only the ingenuity of skilled local mechanics together with the reliability of vehicles such as Toyota and the use of genuine Toyota parts over the years has enabled operators to keep their fleets on the road.
Police corruption is another major issue in the congestion problem. In exchange for a bribe many officers allow drivers to park their vehicles in non-parking areas that cause obstruction to traffic.
“The police patrols should be used to apprehend road traffic rule violators. At present they are parked on our roads, sometimes blocking traffic, all by themselves, with the officers chatting on their mobile phones. They should catch and deal with all the traffic rule violators, notwithstanding any of their powerful connections. These include motor bicycles that weave in and out of traffic, those on two-wheelers who go on the pavements, those that overtake on the left, three-wheelers and buses which are a law unto themselves, lane jumpers of all types who could not care less for the other road users and the speedsters that weave in and out of lines of traffic,” says The Island.