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Yal Devi 'steams' into Omanthai



Schoolchildren see a train for the first time, in their town

Transport Minister Kumara Welgama greets children Pix : Dushmantha Mayadunne

The terrorists did everything they could to divide the people in the North and the South, physically and mentally. They destroyed the Northern railroad, blasted trains and stations and the entire railway infrastructure. The Yal Devi train, which linked the North and the South, used to be a household name in Sri Lanka. But the LTTE, which wanted to keep Tamil civilians under its iron grip, did not want the trains coming in. The last train to Jaffna had to abandon its mission midway on June 23, 1990. Afterwards, all trains to the North terminated in Vavuniya/Thandikulam until recently.

Back in 2009, exactly two years ago, the LTTE was defeated, ushering in a new era not only for the Northern people but also for all Sri Lankans. The Government lost no time in opening the A9 road which linked Colombo with Jaffna. However, restoring the rail track was not so easy, because there was no rail track to speak of beyond Vavuniya. It had to be built from scratch.

The Sri Lankan and Indian Governments, corporate entities and private individuals contributed to this drive to re-build the Northern railway track, stations, signalling infrastructure and bridges under the Uthuru Mithuru program, a part of the Northern Resurgence project.

The track is being rebuilt and opened stretch by stretch on the 'Build Back Better' principle. The Yal Devi will be running to Jaffna and KKS before long on a newly built rail track.


The Yal Devi in its approach run to Omanthai railway station

The Omanthai station, one of the main stations beyond Vavuniya, was re-built with a generous financial contribution from Singer (Sri Lanka) Limited. It was opened to rail traffic on Friday by Minister Kumara Welgama to coincide with the second anniversary of the victory over terrorism. The Yal Devi arrived at Omanthai (10 Km from Thandikulam, the last previous stop) from Colombo in grand style after 21 long years amidst much fanfare to celebrate the occasion. The Minister was on board, with his senior officials and railway officials. The other stations too are being built in a similar manner to conform with international standards.

The operations of the railway line from Omanthai to Pallai is scheduled to be constructed as the next phase of the project to operate trains from Colombo to Kankesanthurai and laying of the rail track from Pallai to Kankesanthurai will take place under the third phase. The 159 kilometre long Northern rail track consists of 85 bridges, 16 railway stations and 12 sub stations all of which need to be rebuilt.

It was a treat for the schoolchildren and youngsters in the area, some of whom had never travelled in or even seen a train before. The railway officials took them on board for a memorable ride. The older residents of Omanthai too expressed happiness that the Yal Devi was back in their area. It is a train that has linked the hearts in the North and the South and would do so again. It is a symbol of hope and peace for all Lankans.

 

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