After a gap of 24 years, the Northern Railway Service was further extended today with the commissioning of the 27.5-kilometre stretch of the Kilinochchi-Palai rail track.
A train carrying Transport Minister Kumara Welgama, Indian High Commissioner Y.K. Sinha and Minister Douglas Devananda travelled from Kilinochchi to Palai where on arrival the visitors were accorded a traditional and cultural welcome.
The train service in the North came to a halt during the armed conflict and after the end of the armed conflict in 2009 the Government took steps to reconstruct the railway lines connecting all the major towns and cities. The first segment of the re-constructed 63-kilometre railway track from Omanthai to Kilinochchi of the 146-kilometre Northern Railway Line was opened for train travel on September 14 last year.
It was further extended up to Palai yesterday. Addressing the cremony to mark the event at Palai Railway Station, Minister Welgama said the railway track up to Jaffna would be commissioned by June and up to Kankesanthurai by September 14.
He said the work on the Madu –Thalaimannar line would be completed within the next few months.
“Once the train operation is restored up to Thalaimannar, people in the North need not come to Colombo when travelling to India. They can go to Thalaimannar by train, and take the ferry service to reach Rameswaram in South India,” the minister said. “I wanted to commission the line to Jaffna in time for this year’s New Year celebrations. But, the construction firm has asked for time. I am sure it will be completed by June.”
The railway line from Medawachchi to Kankasanthurai was commissioned on September 10, 1905 during the British rule in Sri Lanka. The train service ceased operations after June 13, 1990 during the height of the armed conflict. After it ended the government began rebuilding the line, and resumed operations from Vavuniya to Thandikulam on June 7, 2009 and then extended it to Omanthai on May 29, 2011.
Indian Railway Construction Company Limited (Ircon) is the key contractor of the project. (KB) - (Pix by Romesh Madushanka)