Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena said that even at a time when the country is facing the biggest crisis it has faced since Independence, the support received from the Indian government to raise the public transport sector in the country was highly commendable.
The Minister expressed these views while attending the inauguration ceremony held at the Medawachchiya railway station premises for the commencement of the renovation work on the Northern Railway from Mahawa to Omanthai.
This renovation work on the railroad from Mahawa to Omanthai is to be implemented by the Indian IRCON company under an Indian loan scheme. The total investment made for the project is US$ 91.27 million.
In the first phase 48 km stretch from Anuradhapura to Vavuniya will be renovated and the next phase 13 km from Vavuniya to Omanthai will be renovated. After the completion of the project, trains can run at a speed of 100 km per hour, and the time by train from Colombo to Kankesanturai, Jaffna will be reduced by one hour.
Also there are many benefits from the project such as reduction and minimization of maintenance, a comfortable and safe journey for passengers, and the addition of a new station called Bu-Oya to the railway system.
The minister at the inauguration further said, “even though our country is facing the biggest crisis after independence, the support we are getting from the Indian government to promote the public transport sector in this country is highly commendable. It is a unique opportunity to start the railway renovation project from Mahawa to Omanthai as the first major development project in Sri Lanka in 2023.
I think this project under the Indian loan scheme will help resolve a number of problems in the Northern Railway. Due to the war in the past, this railway line was severely damaged. After the end of the war, the road up to Kankesanthurai was renovated under the Indian loan scheme at the request of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. But this railway section from Mahawa to Omanthai is a road that has not undergone any renovation for a long time.
The construction company has planned to complete the construction work within five months. During that period, our ministry and related institutions have already prepared arrangements to provide a special transport service by combining transport board and private buses to carry out the transportation of the people without any blockage. Also, this project will set a new example for the country, with the staff of the Railway Department being responsible for converting every part or equipment that will be removed from this railway line be converted into money in a transparent manner. We also hope to use every reusable part for reuse” the minister said.
The Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay, Indian diplomats, Minister Douglas Devananda, Ministers of State Siripala Gamlath and Shehan Semasinghe were among those who attended.