Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the Presidency in 2005 with a series of promises related to railways. The Yal Devi train finally reached Jaffna in October 2014 after a lapse of 24 years.
With a rich history dating back to 1864, Sri Lanka’s railway network is one of the oldest and most reliable methods of transport. The train service is considered to be economical, eco-friendly and comfortable. Hence, it is used by millions of Sri Lankans.
The late 20th Century saw the decline of Sri Lanka railways, mainly due to the mismanagement and lack of innovation. The world, including some South Asian countries, were updating their systems with the latest technological improvements, while Sri Lanka lagged behind.
Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the Presidency in 2005 with a series of promises related to railways.
The promise of Yal Devi train up to Kankesanthurai was rather ambitious, considering the obstacles such as landmines, completely destroyed infrastructure and the capital required for this project. But as soon as the war was over in May 2009, the Yal Devi was extended to Thandikulam in June 2009. In 2011, it was extended to Omanthai – subsequently, to Kilinochchi, then Palai. The train finally reached Jaffna in October 2014 after a lapse of 24 years.
Another northern line, between Medawachchiya and Madhu, was restored after a lapse of 23 years, when it was ceremonially opened in 2013. As scheduled, the railway line to Talaimannar was declared open by the current Government during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa also commenced the phase 1 of the Matara – Kataragama railway extension project, which aimed to improve the quality of rail transport in the Southern region.
While constructing and reconstructing railway lines, the upgrading of existing railway services also took place. Newly laid tracks allowed passengers to travel at a speed of 120 km/h, while existing tracks were being upgraded to enable travel at 100 km/h, thus shortening the journey time.
In 2011, luxury train services, such as Expo Rail and Rajadhani Express, commenced services. It gave passengers the opportunity to enjoy an extra luxurious journey when they required it.