Sri Lanka’s most hated railway crossing...
BY EUNICE RUTH AND DIMESH ADIKARI
The railway crossing in Alawwa town closes more than 110 times a day; for more than eight hours on average. It causes severe traffic congestions in the town. Residents and motorists have requested the Government and authorities for a flyover at the railway crossing to solve the issue. Even though several projects have been launched by the Government to build flyovers in the country, this hasn’t been the case for Alawwa, residents say.
Alawwa, which connects the Sabaragamuwa and North-Western Provinces and separated by the Ma Oya, has been known as the North-Western Gateway since ancient times.
But closing it’s main crossing on the Polgahawela to Colombo Fort main railway line for several minutes and sometimes hours each day causes huge traffic build up in Narammala, Giriulla, Colombo and Kurunegala roads. All motorists and those who visit or pass through Alawwa on a daily basis have to cross this railway gate.
Locals pointed that people still use the pedestrian crossing even when the gates are closed which has led to an increase in railway accidents. Also, the crossing is the only way to get an emergency patient from Alawwa Hospital to Warakapola or Kurunegala Hospital. “We can’t wait and let a patient die during an emergency. Alawwa needs a flyover to reduce the traffic congestion, accidents and deaths,” they say.
Traffi c issue
The Chief Organiser of the Alawwa Trade Association, L.M.A.K. Warnasooriya said that trains pass through more than 100 times a day and the gate currently installed is not an automated one. “Sometimes gates are closed 30 minutes before a train arrives and it has created several issues for the public who use the road for various needs,” he said and pointed out that school children and people getting to work face lots of problems owing to the delays during morning hours and there is a huge traffic build-up on both sides of the road when the railway gate is closed. People are forced to waste their time and fuel waiting as they have no other way to pass the road, he added. “Everyone says that Sri Lanka is a developing county. However, no measures have been taken to develop Alawwa town yet and we request the Government to fulfil our needs,” Warnasooriya said.
Alawwa resident, A J. Paranagama, said that he has been living in the town since he was a child and that it had no traffic issues in the olden days. However, with the increasing number of vehicles in Sri Lanka, the traffic congestion in various parts of the country has increased and in Alawwa, the frequent closing of the railway gate has created more traffic jams on the ColomboKurunegala Road.
He told that this has greatly affected Alawwa’s economy because people have started shopping at nearby stores, preferring to stay away from heavy traffic. “We have already informed all responsible Government authorities on this issue and during the election season, they promised to build a flyover. But after the election, they forgot their promises. Therefore, we request the President, Prime Minister and the other responsible officials to fulfil our need for a flyover to reduce the inconveniences and problems of Alawwa people,” Paranagama said.
Meanwhile, Kurunegala District MP, Shantha Bandara noted that he has requested a flyover in Alawwa town during two meetings with Parliamentarians and the President, “The Secretary to the Ministry of Highways was present at the first discussion and he said that it was planned to build a flyover in Alawwa with foreign funds. However, the President said we can use our own funds instead of waiting for that and also instructed the Secretary to prepare for the flyover’s construction with Government funds.
Again at the March meeting, I reminded them regarding Alawwa town’s development and flyover. When the President inquired in this regard, the Secretary said that the flyover’s design is being drafted”. During a committee meeting held in Kurunegala, the Minister of Highways Johnston Fernando said that five flyovers for the Kurunegala District has been approved and one will be constructed across the Alawwa railway crossing. He also said that Rs135 Million has been allocated for town’s future development and a new weekly fair is planned to be built in Alawwa through the Urban Development Authority.