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Sunday, 27 February 2011

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Rail, bus services to be modernised



 The express train about to leave the Galle station



Transport Minister Kumara Welgama and Indian High Commissioner Ashok K. Kantha on board the train


Minister Welgama at the Galle station

Minister Welgama at the controls

The 30-year-old conflict is now over. The Government spent millions of rupees to bring peace to the country. Now the country needs to win the economic war.

Winning the economic war is a challenge to the Government. The security forces cannot help the Government win the economic war. It is up to the Ministers and Members of Parliament to help the President to achieve this goal.

To achieve this objective, the Government will have to pay more attention to develop all sectors including agriculture, education and health. In addition, the Government should also develop the transport sector which is an essential service in a developing society.

As we are aware, Governments in the past took various measures to strengthen the country's rail and bus transport services. The present Government has also taken numerous steps to develop the transport sector. Repairing unused buses and rail carriages lying at CTB depots and railway yards, importing new buses and increasing the number of trains are some of the steps taken by the Transport Ministry as a solution to the transport problem.

The Transport Ministry has also commenced a program to modernise existing railway lines for high speed trains.

Under this program, the Government has planned to upgrade all major railway lines countrywide to provide a quicker transport service than at present. Accordingly, Sri Lanka's first modernised railway line from Galle to Matara was declared open by Transport Minister Kumara Welgama on February 14.

The 43 km high speed railway line from Galle to Matara was constructed by an Indian Company IRCON at a cost of US $ 36 million.

The train takes 35 minutes to ply between these two destinations at a speed of 100 kmph.

Transport Minister Kumara Welgama and Sri Lankan High Commissioner for India Ashok K. Kantha were among the distinguished personalities in the inaugural train ride to Matara. Several officials of the IRCOM Company of India who constructed the track also travelled on the train. On their way to Matara, Minister Welgama took the wheel like a professional engine driver.

People on either side of the rail track greeted the train by waving lion flags.

According to Minister Welgama all main railway tracks in the country including the upcountry and Northern railway lines will be modernised within the next four years to increase speed levels.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer at Matara Railway Station, Minister Welgama said that the high speed coastal railway track will be extended from Galle to Colombo under two stages.

"In addition, the Government will also complete the most needed Southern line from Matara to Kataragama.

The construction work of the railway track from Matara to Beliatta is expected to commence in April this year and the whole track upto Kataragama will be completed in two years".


Speedometer touching 100 kmph

The Kandy-Colombo railway track will also be upgraded to enable locals and foreigners to travel between these two destinations in a shorter duration.

The Minister also said that the Government has made arrangements to import twenty power sets from China in the next six months. Three power sets have already arrived in the Colombo port.

The Minister said all unprotected railway crossings will be installed with gates with the assistance of local authorities.

The Railway Department has also planned to clear up large scale railway yards to cultivate vegetables.

Minister Welgama said that in addition to train services, the Sri Lanka Transport Board's services will also be strengthened by adding more buses to the fleet. The current fleet of 5,300 buses will be increased up to 7,000 and the late night bus service will be strengthened.

There are a large number of unused buses which are lying at depots and we expect to repair them. When interviewed, High Commissioner Asok Kantha said the upgraded coastal railway line will largely benefit people to cut down travel time. This project will also strengthen the close co-operation between the two countries.

He said India was committed to work with the Sri Lankan Government towards the consolidation of peace, prosperity and development in Sri Lanka. He said steps have also been taken to complete the Northern railway line from Omanthai to Kankesanturai via Jaffna before schedule.

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