Sri Lanka has given another deal to an Indian company to rebuild part of the northern rail track destroyed by war using a soft loan from the Indian government, officials said.
The Indian government-owned IRCON International signed the contract with the island’s transport ministry, Tuesday, to rebuild the Medawachchiya-Madhu Road rail track in the north-west at a cost of 81.3 million US dollars.
The project, which includes six railway stations, is expected to be completed by end-2011, Transport Minister Kumara Welgama told a news conference. IRCON is rebuilding the 110 kilometre rail track from Medawachchiya to Talaimannar in two phases.
It had signed two agreements earlier for similiar type of track work between Omanthai and Pallai on the northern line and a section from Madhu Road to Talaimannar on the north-west tip of the island.
The Madhu-Talaimannar section is expected to cost 149.7 million dollars.
Sri Lanka’s northern rail track was destroyed or neglected by the 30-year ethnic war which ended in May 2009.
“Our railways are in poor condition,” Welgama said. “We have 1,200 km of track, excluding the north, which needs to be repaired and upgraded. India is helping us to modernise our railway system.”
Welgama said there are 800 speed limits on the island’s rail network which were the main reason for chronic delays.
“So if we upgrade the tracks we can increase speeds from 15 kmph to 75-80 kmph which means we can run more trains and carry more passengers and can reduce traffic congestion on the roads.”
Indian high commissioner Ashok Kantha said the rail projects will be funded with an 800 million US dollar Indian credit line promised during Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi earlier this year.
The loan will be given at a concessional rate of interest.
“The governments of India and Sri Lanka are closely co-operating in the work of rehabilitating and modernising Sri Lanka’s rail network,” Kantha said.
IRCON had already begun work on upgrading the southern railway corridor, a 42 km section between the towns of Galle and Matara with the project to be completed by December ahead of schedule.
Survey work for the project’s second phase, between Galle and Kalutara, has been completed.
Source: Lanka Business Online