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Colombo-Jaffna expressway in the offing

R.K. Radhakrishnan
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Rajapaksa opens Sri Lanka's first expressway linking the capital with Galle

PUSHING INFRASTRUCTURE: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa seen with his wife Shiranthi in Galle, after completing a journey on the country's first expressway on Sunday. The toll highway linking capital Colombo with the southern city cost $700 million, with much of the money obtained from Japan and the Asian Development Bank. — Photo: AFP
PUSHING INFRASTRUCTURE: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa seen with his wife Shiranthi in Galle, after completing a journey on the country's first expressway on Sunday. The toll highway linking capital Colombo with the southern city cost $700 million, with much of the money obtained from Japan and the Asian Development Bank. — Photo: AFP

Soon after opening Sri Lanka's first expressway connecting the capital, Colombo, with the southern port city of Galle on Sunday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa began the spadework for the next major infrastructure project: An expressway linking Colombo with Tamil-dominated Jaffna.

“I will work on the Jaffna expressway so that the distance can be covered in three hours,” said Mr. Rajapaksa. Jaffna is about 400 km from Colombo. The A-9 highway to Jaffna, which had not been re-topped in a few decades, is being repaired in stages. A one-way journey takes upwards of 10 hours by bus now.

“The President is determined about it [the Colombo-Jaffna expressway],” said Director-General of Presidential Media Bandula Jayasekara. “He said the country needs more connectivity to bring people together,” he said.

Eyeing foreign investments

Mr. Rajapaksa is pushing to get Sri Lanka infrastructure-ready so that foreign investments are not held back by shoddy transport and lack of facilities. Work is already on to build a second passenger terminal at the gateway to Sri Lanka, the Bandaranaike International Airport; a second international airport is coming up at Hambantota; and other smaller airports are being developed.

India, for instance, has helped rebuild the runway at the Palaly airport in Jaffna. The country's main airline, Sri Lankan, has begun operating air taxis to Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Bentota, Trincomallee and Arugam Bay.

Recently revived

Besides, work on the Colombo port's second terminal is apace and India is working on the Kankesanthurai harbour, which is closest to the Tamil Nadu coast. Roads across the country are being re-laid and air-connectivity between Colombo and some world capitals have recently been revived.

In November the number of tourist arrivals crossed the 7.5-lakh target set for the year.


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