Trains to Batticaloa back on track
[TamilNet, Saturday, 12 April 2003, 13:20 GMT]
Minister of Transportation of Government of Sri Lanka, Minister Upali Piyasoma ceremonially inaugurated the Polannaruwa to Batticaloa train service Saturday morning easing transportation to and from Batticaloa town, sources in Batticaloa said. Recent completion to repairs of the final stretch of the track from Valaichenai to Batticaloa paved the way for the opening of the Polannaruwa to Batticaloa service.
Minister unveiling the name board (click for a larger picture)
In the inauguration run, the train started its journey in Colombo Fort railway station Friday night and reached Batticaloa station at 2.45pm Saturday. Minister Piyasoma participated in the inauguration run by traveling from Polannaruwa to Batticaloa. Polannaruwa parliamentarian G.H.P.Nelson, Advisor to Ministry of Planning Alizahir Moulana, General Commissioner of Railways, Priyalal De Silva and other officials also joined the minister for the final leg of the journey.
From Polannaruwa the train stopped in Rithithenna at 8.30am, where a foundation stone was laid for a new Railway station. The
train then proceeded to Valaichchenai and from there to Kalkuda where the minister opened the new railway station.
The train next stopped near Vantharumoolai University Undergraduate Hostel where another foundation stone for a new Railway station was laid. Eravur station was the next stop where the station was ceremonially opened by the Minister.
The final destination was Batticaloa station where the Minister unveiled the name board commemorating the reestablished train service.
On 31 October 1996, following a land mine explosion derailed a train transporting goods, train service on the Polannaruwa-Batticaloa line was suspended. Railway tracks and sleepers on a 50 km stretch from Punanai to Batticaloa were used by the security forces to reinforce and build checkpoints and observation posts. The presence of railway track was completely erased from that region. Material was allegedly sold for profit also.
Following the signing of Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of SriLanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Polannaruwa to Valaichenai tracks were restored and the train service was restarted on 18 March 2002.
Train arriving at Batticaloa
(click for a larger picture)
Completion of the final leg of the railway track was a welcome relief to residents of Batticaloa, and residents assembled in large numbers to welcome the arrival of the first train after a lapse of seven years.