Valachchenai-Batticaloa trains back on track

by Harischandra Gunaratna
Train services from Valachchenai to Batticaloa will resume on April 12 after a lapse of six years, General Manager Railways Priyal de Silva said yesterday.

"Train services from Kaduruwela to Batticaloa was suspended in November 1996 due to intense terrorist activity in the Eastern areas. But the rail services from Kaduruwela to Valachchanai was resumed in March 2002", he added.

De Silva said "laying of the track from Valachchanai to Batticaloa has been carried out at a cost of Rs. 178 million although it was initially estimated to be around Rs. 160 to 170 million. The department has received Rs. 100 million from NORAD as aid and the balance money was provided by the Treasury for this project."

"The rail track had been blown up by the Tamil tigers at various points and the Batticaloa bound trains were also attacked by them on several occasions. The locomotives were damaged by exploding bombs laid under the track with a remote control device." Deputy Minister of Transport, Piyasoma Upali will lay the foundation stone for two new train halts on the Batticaloa line at Rideetenne and Vanthuramullai and reopen the renovated railway stations at Kalkudah, Eravur, Devapuram and Batticaloa on 12, de Silva said.

"Till recently the army and the police occupied a part of the Batticaloa railway station and now they have moved to other locations," he added.

"Resumption of train services to Batticaloa will facilitate tourist traffic to the east coast which is reckoned to have one of the best beaches in the world and it’s a big boost to the economy as well," De Silva pointed out.

Flour from the Prima Mill will be transported direct from China Bay to Batticaloa via Galoya by rail in future. Now it’s transported by rail from China Bay to Galoya and by road from there to Batticaloa. This will be a big saving on transportation costs. Fuel will also be transported from Trincomalee to Batticaloa direct by rail from 12th onwards. Sri Lanka Railway envisages introducing air conditioned carriages to all long distance trains by next year and more rail carriages are expected to be imported soon, De Silva said.