Upgrade rail transport to boost tourism - Ircon official
Sri Lanka should upgrade its rail track network and make it an
efficient mode of transport to develop the tourism industry, Project
Director, Ircon International Limited, S.L. Gupta told the media in
Colombo last week.
Gupta said an efficient railway network to the North and the East,
which has immense potential for tourism development, should be built to
woo travellers who wish to get to their destinations fast.
“Trains which amble rather than move at an accepted speed will not
help spur tourism growth. Such a mode of transport will not be
effective,” he said. Ircon officials underscored the importance of
upgrading the coastal lines especially the Colombo-Kalutara stretch
which needs urgent improvement.
They said the East coast which is a preferred tourism destination
needs easy access through a sound transport system. The railway is a
commercially viable and safe mode of transportation.
Gupta said when one could reach Jaffna from Colombo within four and a
half hours it takes him six and a half hours. The rail network should be
upgraded to reduce the time taken to reach destinations.
Rail transport experts said the 393 kilometre distance to Jaffna from
Colombo could be covered within four hours if trains travel at 100 kmph.
Gupta said the company is ready to undertake tasks it is entrusted
with and added that they would be in Sri Lanka for the next two years.
Responding to the alleged shortcomings in the relaying of the
Northern railway track, he said a small segment had made a mountain out
of a mole hill, while a large number of people were happy with the work
done by Ircon.
Ircon International Limited, a Government of India undertaking, under
the Ministry of Indian Railways, will complete seven years of existence
in Sri Lanka in March. Ircon undertook the upgrading of the tsunami
devastated coastal line and the reconstruction of the Northern railway
track which helped resume rail transportation to the North after a lapse
of nearly 30 years.
Ircon commenced its charter with the mandate to upgrade the Kalutara–Galle-Matara
coastal railway line in March 2009. The coastal line was devastated by
the tsunami in 2004.
Gupta said rail joints have been replaced using state-of-the-art
welding technology, while the latest the technology such as pre-stressed
concrete sleepers, CMS (Cast Manganese Steel) crossings with standard
turnouts, long welded rails with switch expansion joints, modern
signalling and telecommunication systems, mechanized tamping and packing
were incorporated to provide a long-lasting track, with minimal
maintenance. Maintenance work is 50% less in this modern track compared
to available conventional tracks in Sri Lanka. “Ircon not only executed
the projects but also imparted technical and managerial skills to
personnel from the Sri Lanka Railways and the CECB who were associated
with the projects,” said Gupta.
Besides the enormous benefits being reaped by the public due to the
restoration of rail connectivity between the North and the South, the
Government through the Ministry of Internal Transport is also earning a
huge revenue. “It is learnt that the Yal Devi train runs full, with
bookings being done several days in advance”, said Gupta. As a few
projects are still under the warranty period, Ircon has been maintaining
adequate resources to meet its defect liability obligations.
“With the completion of the Northern Province railway lines, Ircon is
keen on assisting the Sri Lanka Railways in its future infrastructure
development projects,” Gupta said.
Completion of the Northern Province railway project has benefited the
Tamil people in many ways and this also has been a major factor for
restoring normalcy in the region.
“It is also of paramount importance that every Government should
leave no stone unturned to develop rail transport as it is the most
fuel-efficient, safe, customer and environment-friendly mode of
transport, ensuring all round development of the country,” said Gupta.