Sri Lanka, India move to reconnect with rail rebuild

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – The last stretch of rail track in northern Sri Lanka to be rebuilt with Indian aid was declared open by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying connectivity between the two countries should improve further. 

The track between Madhu Road and Talaimannar Pier covering a distance of 63 km was commissioned by Modi at a ceremony held at Talaimannar Pier Station on Saturday, 14th March.

The commissioning of train services up to Talaimannar Pier now establishes a direct train link with Colombo after a gap of more than 25 years.

In future this line is likely to provide a link to Sri Lankans to travel by ferry services to India, a point Modi noted in his speech at a business forum Friday.

"We should do more to connect our countries by air and sea. India and Sri Lanka were, in some ways, better connected in the past than we are now!" Modi said.

"In the past, a person could buy a rail ticket in Colombo and travel to Chennai by rail and ferry!"

Modi said India will invest in improving regional connectivity, with Air India deciding to launch direct flight between New Delhi and Colombo.

"India is already the biggest source of tourists here. We will work together to increase that flow."

Modi said India had also decided to extend visa on arrival facility to Sri Lanka from April 14.

The Talaimannar line is the last stretch of northern track rebuilt by India’s Ircon International Limited using an Indian soft loan.

The projects, comprising of the reconstructing of 265 km of railway track, along with the construction of more than 400 major and minor bridges, station buildings, platforms and supply of locomotives, were completed in four years.

Modi also said India will provide a fresh Line of Credit of up to 318 million dollars for the island’s railways sector.