By Susitha Fernando
Colombo, Jan 9 (SocialNews.XYZ) India has launched modernisation of the 130km-long Northern railway line as part of the $1 billion project to upgrade Sri Lanka's over century-old railway line.
Indian public sector company, IRCON, launched a track rehabilitation and upgrading project, including ancillary works, between North Western Province's Maho and Northern Province's Omanthai, under an existing Indian Line of Credit (LOC) of $318 million at a cost of $91.27 million.
The renovation of the over-115-year-old railway line constructed during British colonial rule is to enable trains to run on the line at a maximum speed of 120 kmph, cutting the travel time between Colombo and Jaffna by an hour. British ruled Ceylon's first train from Colombo arrived at Northern Jaffna on August 1, 1905.
Sri Lanka's Transport Minister, Bandula Gunawardane thanked India for the support extended to Sri Lanka, especially in the transport sector. Appreciating the work done by IRCON in Sri Lanka in the past few years, he called for greater railway cooperation between the two countries.
High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay who participated at the launch of the project, said that India has executed projects of over $1 billion in the railways sector under 5 Indian LOCs. Noting that additionally projects of about $180 million are either ongoing or in pipeline under existing LOCs, he underscored the importance of modernisation of railways in enhancing mobility of goods and services in Sri Lanka, thereby boosting economic activity.
He stressed the importance of strengthening connectivity internally as well as with India for enhancing pilgrimages, tourism, trade and economic benefits for the people of both countries.
The High Commissioner assured that India would work with Sri Lanka to introduce green and sustainable transport solutions.
"As a long-standing development partner of Sri Lanka, Government of India has executed several projects in Sri Lanka under its concessional loans and grant schemes. Of the different sectors of cooperation under these facilities, the upgradation and modernisation of Sri Lankan Railways has been one of the priority areas," the Indian High Commission said in a statement.
Started its operations in Sri Lanka in March 2009, IRCON International, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, has contributed towards modernisation of Sri Lanka railways by reconstructing the entire railway line network of about 253 Km in Northern Province and upgrading of the 115-km-long Southern line. IRCON has also contributed to ensuring safety and reliability through a modern signalling and telecommunication system on a 330 km stretch of railway line in Sri Lanka.
India is also helping Sri Lanka's public transport, with 75 out of the 500 Ashok Leyland buses- supplied under an LoC, handed over to the Sri Lanka Transport Board last week. Additionally, 125 out of the 500 India-made Mahindra SUVs were handed over to Sri Lanka Police.