India's IRCON International Limited and the Sri Lankan government have inked a $91.26 million agreement for upgrading the around 130 km-long Maho-Omanthai rail line which is over 100 years old.
Once the upgradation is completed, Jaffna bound trains will be able to travel at 120 kmph, providing safe, efficient and comfortable transportation for the passengers in the Northern Province.
The railway line is being upgraded under Indian concessional financing. This is the first time the track is being upgraded in 100 years.
The contract agreement was signed between IRCON International Limited and the Government of Sri Lanka in Colombo on Thursday.
IRCON Chairman Sunil Kumar Choudhury and L.P. Jayampathy, Secretary, Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation of Sri Lanka, signed the agreement in the presence of Arjuna Ranatunga, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation of Sri Lanka.
The upgradation will include modification of 12 crossing stations, seven halt stations and 78 level crossings.
Ranatunga, addressing the gathering in Colombo, said that at present, trains are running with speed restrictions of 40 kmph on this section. The travel time too between Maho and Omanthai is about three hours with a maximum sanctioned speed of 60 kmph.
He said a new crossing station will be constructed between Medawachchiya to Vavuniya, and 218 culverts and 90 bridges will be repaired or reconstructed as required. "This will help to make the journey more comfortable, convenient and shorter the travel time," he said, adding that the project is expected to be completed by 36 months, according to Daily News.
The upgradation would help double the speed potential of the railway track from the current 60 km to 120 km per hour, as well as reduce the maintenance costs.
It will also improve the travel comfort of passengers, and further contribute to the modernization Sri Lanka Railways, an official statement from the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.
India has so far committed Lines of Credit worth around $1.3 billion for development of the railway sector in Sri Lanka.
The restoration of arterial railway lines, connecting the North and the South after decades of conflict, was undertaken under Indian concessional financing.
The tsunami-affected Southern Railway line was also upgraded under Indian Line of Credit. India has so far upgraded around 300 km of railway track and provided modern signalling and telecommunication system for around 330 km in Sri Lanka.
In June 2017, India signed a fresh Line of Credit Agreement for $318 million for the development of the railway sector in Sri Lanka. Under this Line of Credit, other projects that are underway include procurement of 160 passenger coaches; upgradation of signal and telecommunication system from Maho to Anuradhapura; and setting up of a Railway Workshop in Rathmalana.
Procurements of rolling stock from India are also underway, including six Diesel Multiple Units, 10 locomotives, 20 container carrier wagons, 30 fuel tank wagons, 160 passenger coaches, and 500 buses.
India has also contributed substantially to capacity building of Sri Lankan railway personnel.
The Maho-Omanthai project is in continuation of India's efforts to partner with Colombo in people-oriented connectivity projects in Sri Lanka.
IRCON has previously completed the up-gradation of the 114-km Colombo-Matara coastal railway line under Indian line of credit, reconstruction of the Medawachchiya to Madhu Road Railway Line in Northern Province and restoration of Northern Railway line from Omanthai to Jaffna.