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Outer Colombo Circular Highway:Ravi queries how 30.9 Km stretch cost whopping Rs. 133 bn

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Ravi_-Interviev_front_view*Rs. 122 bn for three segments, bridges, intersections, land filling, compensation- Govt.
The UNP yesterday queried how the government had budgeted to spend a whopping Rs. 133 billion on an expressway, stretching merely 30.9 kilometres, which was known as the ‘Outer Colombo Circular Highway’ linking Kottawa to Kerawalapitiya, via Kaduwela and Kadawatha.

The proposed expressway is three-pronged project. The first is from Kottawa to Kaduwela, a stretch of 11 kilometers, while the second is from Kaduwela to Kadawatha over 8.9 kilometers. The final srerch is from Kadawatha to Kerawalapitiya over 9.2 kilometers. The highway is meant to channel the outstation traffic without it arriving in Colombo.

How can the government spend public funds indiscriminately? A whopping Rs. 133 billion is to be spent on a mere 30-meter stretch of expressway, irrespective of the negative intentions, Colombo District UNP Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake charged in an interview with The Island last night.

When pointed out that the project had three segments, MP Karunanayake quipped: "Whatever the circles are, it appears that the government members are looking after their own circles!

"This merely shows the profligacy of the government in wasting public funds," he said, adding that the government had spent Rs. 98 billion for the Southern expressway when the UNP estimate was Rs. 48 billion. He also said that the late Highways Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle had once told Parliament that the Katunayake expressway had cost only Rs. 6.5 billion, but it had risen to Rs. 48 billion. "Are these figures based on cost over runs or on corruption runs," he asked.

Meanwhile, Deputy Highways Minister Nirmala Kotelawela, when contacted, said that it was prior to his assuming the portfolio that the project was started but he would take the full responsibility for it and the estimated figures.

He said that the Rs. 122 billion expressway was a three pronged project. The first phase of 11 kilometers had cost Rs. 24.98 billion, the second, spanning 8.9 kilometers, cost Rs. 44.78 billion and the final phase of 9.2 kilometers, would cost Rs. 33 billion.

He said that the first two phases of the project were completed and the third was being commenced with the reclamation of land and the payment of compensation.

Kotelawela also said that the cost, of Rs. 122 billion, not only included the expressway but all the associated infrastructure including the bridges, culverts and intersections, flyovers, land reclamation and the payment of compensation.

He added that the expressway had the largest and the longest bridge in the country and a large number of intersections and flyovers. There were a large number of large and small bridges of varying lengths and sizes, he said.

Kotelawala also dismissed Karunanayake’s earlier allegation of the cost overrun for the Southern expressway, claiming that the UNP budget was for a two-lane Southern expressway, where vehicles would have to travel rank and file in contrast to the present four-lane highway.

He also rejected Karunanayake’s claim of the Southern expressway yielding a Rs. 1 billion annual revenue while incurring an expenditure of Rs. 6.5 billion, resulting in a Rs. 5.5 billion annual loss. "To the best of my knowledge, we are running at a profit with expenditure less than Rs. 1 billion annually," he said.

He added that a Treasury team would be talking to the governments of Thailand, Malaysia, Korea and China in respect of investments for the Colombo- Kandy expressway soon.