IRCON International Limited, a Government of India Undertaking, under the Ministry of Indian Railways, has completed five years in Sri Lanka, where the Company was responsible for laying the Northern railway tracks which enabled the people in the North to resume travel by rail after a period of 30 years.
Speaking on the occasion of IRCON’s fifth anniversary, Project Director Shyam Lal Gupta, said that Ircon International Limited started its Sri Lanka charter with the mandate to upgrade the Kalutara-Galle-Matara coastal railway line in March 2009. “The Coastal Railway Line was devastated during the Tsunami in December 2004. The project involved the rehabilitation and improvement of the existing track to a modern railway track with a speed potential of 100 kmph. This 114 km long project was funded through an Indian line of credit and was completed ahead of schedule in two phases. Phase-I, Gall –Matara (42 km) was completed and handed over to Sri Lanka Railways on 16th February 2011, while Phase-II, Galle – Kalutara (72 km) was put to commercial operations on 19th April 2012”.
Mr Gupta went on to say that thereafter the Govt. of Sri Lanka further requested IRCON to submit a proposal for reconstructing the Northern Railway Lines and when subsequent to the end of war, when the President of Sri Lanka visited India in June 2010, the Govt. of India announced that they would extend a very concessional line of credit of USD 800 Million for the restoration of the railway lines and the installation of the signaling and telecommunication system in the Northern Province. The Line of credit is a soft loan on low interest rates. There is 20 year repayment period with a 5 year moratorium.
“IRCON then proceeded to undertake the reconstruction of 265 km of the Northern Railway lines in Sri Lanka, funded by the Government of India Lines of Credit in stages with the first segment of the Northern Railway Line, namely the re-constructed railway track from Medawachchiya to Madhu Road, being handed over to the Government of Sri Lanka on 14th May 2013”. Gupta went on to say that the second segment from Omanthai to Kilinochchi was inaugurated on 14th September 2013 by the President of Sri Lanka by undertaking a train journey in the famous Yaldevi. Subsequently the Kilinochchi to Pallai section was handed over for commercial operations on 04th March 2014.
“The long awaited dream of reconnecting Jaffna with Colombo via rail and recommencing services of the famous Yal Devi to Jaffna was achieved with the opening of the Pallai – Jaffna section on 13th October 2014; thereafter the stretch from Jaffna to KKS was inaugurated for train services on 02nd January 2015 in record time”.
The last and final segment of the Northern Railway Line from Madhu Road to Talai Mannar Pier (63 Kms) was inaugurated on 14th March 2015 by the Prime Minister of India. As part of the Northern Railway projects, IRCON has also handed over six new locomotives to Sri Lanka Railways. The installation of the Signaling and Telecommunication system in the sections has also been completed and commissioned with the opening of sections, while the new railway tracks are designed with a speed potential of 120 kmph.
“IRCON not only executed the projects but also imparted various technical and managerial training skills to personnel from Sri Lanka Railways and the CECB who were associated with the projects. This training is very beneficial to persons from Sri Lanka in maintaining the railway track standards of long welded rails (LWRs)”, said Gupta. During the execution of these projects, IRCON made use of local manpower as well as agencies, thus providing huge employment opportunities as well as skills development for local personnel, said
Besides the enormous benefits being reaped by the public of Sri Lanka due to the restoration of Rail connectivity between the Northern and the Southern parts of the country, the Govt. of Sri Lanka acting through the Ministry of Internal Transport is also earning huge revenues by way of sales of travel tickets. “It is learnt that the Yal Devi train is running full, with bookings being done several days in advance”, said Gupta.
Gupta further added that the Government of Sri Lanka should make all efforts to ensure that the trains can cover the distance from Colombo to Jaffna and Colombo to Trincomalee in 4 to 4.5 hours