At 12-50 p.m., when a Chinese-built train on the Galle-Matara Railway line hit the 100 kmph mark, it marked a first for the Sri Lankan Railway. Never in the past has a Sri Lankan train speed close to the 100 kmph mark.
This was possible after a major track up-gradation by the Indian public sector entity, IRCON. The modernised Galle - Matara railway track was inaugurated on Wednesday afternoon, ushering in a new era in speed for Sri Lankan Railways.
A line of credit of $ 167.4 million was extended by India for the rehabilitation of the Colombo-Matara rail link. Indian High Commissioner Ashok K. Kantha in August had ceremonially inaugurated the work on Sri Lanka's southern coastal railway line.
The first train was inaugurated by Sri Lankan Minister of Transport Kumara Welgama and the Mr. Kantha at Galle on Wednesday. They also travelled on the train to Matara.
Merely 15 minutes after the Galle, it hit a speed of 100 kilometres per hour. It completed the distance in just over 30 minutes, a gain of a full 15 minutes.
The railway track was damaged during the 2004 tsunami.
Train service between Matara and Galle was suspended for the last six months for the work.
The inauguration happened even as a few of the 80 plus Railway trade unions protested the presence of Indian engineers. They could do the work, the unions contended. Asked about this, IRCON General Manager (Sri Lanka) S.L.Gupta, said that only engineers were brought from India considering the technical nature of the job. “All the labour was Sri Lankan,” he added.
Under the 2nd stage of this project the railway track from Galle to Hikkaduwa will be modernised. Hikkaduwa to Kalutara South and Kalutara South to Maradana will be modernised under the 3rd and 4th stages respectively.