The ambitious Colombo Suburban Railway Project (CSRP) and the Colombo Suburban Efficiency Improvement Project aim to increase the share of rail transport from the current 5% to 10% by creating more demand for commuter rail transport through the provision of modern high capacity and rapid urban and suburban rail transport facilities. The success of the project will depend on whether it will be possible to bring the dilapidated railway-tracks up to sound and healthy high quality standards. The substructure of several rail-tracks is still at the level of the turn from the 19th century to the 20th century.
The re-engineering and strengthening of the railway-tracks by formation broadening and strengthening will become the most difficult task within the programme.
The Colombo Suburban Railway Project, CSRP, which is funded by Asian Development Bank, is also aiming at electrification of the section from Veyangoda to Panadura (64 km) in the Colombo Suburban Area of Sri Lanka.
Obstacle for a higher commuter ridership by rail are the low rail-route capacity, the long station to station journey time (transit-time), the over-packed commuter trains in peak hours with low customer satisfaction.
A high capacity and rapid suburban commuter rail service with customer satisfaction needs sound and healthy rail tracks of high inherent quality with low deterioration rates under given traffic load. Decisive factors are
- well bearing, well drained and broad track substructure components (subsoil, subgrade, formation, formation protective layer and ballast),
- high performance track layouts with state-of-the-art turnout and crossing technology and design,
- modern signaling with train protection,
- fast accelerating and decelerating high capacity and well maintained rolling stocks with reliable break system.
The question is not: Diesel or electric traction. What matters and hampers the current rail-service for a higher commuter ridership, bringing travelers from road to rail, are
- the long station to station journey (transit) times and over-packed trains during peak hour,
- the low route capacity with long headways,
- the existing poor quality rail-tracks on narrow, badly drained and yielding formation of insufficient bearing capacity,
- the unfavorable track design-layouts with turnouts and crossing of outdated technical design hampering higher route capacity,
- the complex color light signaling system (with about 60 valid aspects in use) without any train protection and not allowing short headways.
- the poor and improper service, repair and maintenance of the rolling stocks,
- the limited capacity of maintenance depots and sheds,
- the neglected and improper service, repair, maintenance, tests, examinations and certification of the train-brake systems before dispatching trains to run.
Before electric traction can come on Srilankan tracks, the current main problems, shortcomings, deficiencies and bottlenecks of Sri Lanka Railway have to be addressed first of all.
However, electric traction needs a reliable power supply with sufficient redundancy. This is not given in Sri Lanka. The scope of capital investment is exorbitant high and must be in a relation to the savings gathered by the electric running trains. In the section Panadura-Veyangoda, electric traction will favor only the short-distance running local trains and not the other long distance trains. The savings gathered through electric traction of only a part of the trains do not justify the high capital-investment expenses.
In case of the Kelani-Valley Line, since long the author suggests renovating the KV railway with Meter-Gauge and Y-shaped ThyssenKrupp Steel-Sleepers, as well to render the commuter train service with modern Light Weight Diesel Rail-Cars of Type Stadler-Bussnang, Switzerland, with middle module Diesel-electric power-pack traction instead with the heavy power-sets Class S8, S9, S19, S11 or S12. In tight curves, Light Weight Rail-Cars on winding Y-steel-sleeper tracks can run with higher speed than conventional heavy power-sets on concretes-sleeper tracks.
Modern Light Weight Rail-Car Technology (see INNOTRANS 2018, 18-21. 09, Berlin, Germany) and Y-shaped Steel-Sleepers make it possible to operate a modern high capacity and rapid commuter rail-services on winding trace with Meter-Gauge and as well on 760 mm (2 ½ feet) Narrow-Gauge as demonstrated by advanced railways in North Spain, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.
On the route to Kandy, the low route capacity and slow train speed on the Balana-Incline between Rambukkanna and Kadugannawa is a severe bottleneck. This section has to be renovated by slope- and rock-stabilization, rock-fall protection, widening of bearing formation and revamping the side and catch drains. The rails should be laid as Long Welded Rails (LWR) on a well ballasted track-bed with Y-ThyssenKrupp steel-sleepers, that will give the track excellent geometry stability on the narrow and winding trace.
Modern sound and healthy state-of-the-art rail-tracks of high quality with modern signaling cum train protection will increase the route-capacity, cut station-to-station journey time, shorten headways, and last not least will bring more traffic from road onto rail and will increase the demand for rail-transport. For this target, costly electrification is not needed.
The technical railway paper contributes applicable and feasible technical solutions and reveals, what can be learned from advanced railways in Europe.
To learn more, download: CSRP – FEASIBLE SOLUTIONS 3