Sri Lanka railway reconnects last link to north
EconomyNext – The last stretch of rail track extending to Sri Lanka’s northern tip was commissioned Friday fully restoring the Jaffna peninsula’s connectivity with the rest of the island that had been cut off by war.
The newly built railway track between Jaffna and Kankesanthurai, where there’s a port, covering a distance of 18 km was commissioned by Minister of Transport Kumara Welgama, the Indian High Commission said in a statement.
The entire northern track is being rebuilt and modernized by Ircon International Limited, a state-owned Indian infrastructure group, using an Indian soft loan, working with the Sri Lanka Railways.
"The train journey started from Kankesanthurai (KKS) and ended at Jaffna, with the distance being covered in a period of 15 minutes," the statement said.
"The commissioning of train services up to KKS which established a direct train link with Colombo has fulfilled the long-cherished dream of the people of the Northern Province. The excitement and happiness of the local public was clearly visible as many people were seen cheering the inaugural train run all along its route."
The statement said the last stretch of track completes repair on the northern line and took nearly four years, involving more than 350 machines and a 2,500 workforce both from India as well as Sri Lanka.
"Yal Devi, the famous train on this route which is presently running up to Jaffna, will be covering this new section shortly," he statement said.
"Besides earning huge revenues for Sri Lanka Railways, the new track will also provide efficient train travel to the commuting passengers with reduced travel time and comfortable riding quality."
Ircon is also restoring a spur on the northern line, the railway track from north-central Medawachchiya to Talai Mannar Pier in the north-west. A 37 km-long stretch that remains between Thiruketheeswaram and Talai Mannar Pier is due to be completed by March 2015.
Both tracks were completely destroyed during the 30-ethnic conflict.
The government of India had extended its support to Sri Lanka to rebuild the 252 km railway track in the Northern Province by providing a line of credit of 800 million dollars.
With the opening of the Jaffna – KKS section, a total of 215 km track length has been completed.