India’s state-owned Ircon International is scheduled to commence the Rs.33 billion rehabilitation programme of a section of the Northern railway track from Anuradhapura to Omanthai, under Indian concessional financing, from January 5, 2023, Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Bandula Gunawardana announced yesterday. 

The rail track, which was opened in 1905 during the British rule, hasn’t been upgraded in over 100 years. The government originally signed an agreement with Ircon International Limited for US $ 91.26 million to upgrade the railway track from Maho to Omanthai, under Indian concessional financing on July 18, 2019. However, it was delayed due to the Covid pandemic. 

The government recently awarded a US $ 14.89 million contract to Ircon to design, install, test, commission and certify the signalling and telecommunication system from Maho Junction to Anuradhapura on the Northern line.

Gunawardana noted that the Northern rail line from Anuradhapura to Omanthai will be closed for five months from January 5. Alternatively, buses will be provided by state-owned Sri Lanka Transport Board and other private operators to carry passengers to Jaffna from Anuradhapura during this period. 

The section of the track has 213 culverts and 90 bridges and currently has speed restrictions on 27 locations, where the train speed is limited to 10 to 40 kilometres per hour. Following the upgrade, the minimum speed will be increased to 70 kmph, which would cut down travel time from Colombo to Jaffna by an hour.

The Ircon International officials noted that the track would be rebuilt from the bottom up, with new ballast and welded tracks, which would enable fast and smooth travel without the jerks. 

Moreover, the rehabilitation of the track is also set to increase cargo transport between Jaffna and Colombo.

India has committed lines of credit worth around US $ 1.3 billion for development of railway in Sri Lanka, which includes restoration of arterial railway lines, connecting the North and South after decades of conflict.

source-daily mirror

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