Rail line rolls into action in Sri Lanka

The new track represents the first major rail extension since 1948, Sri Lanka’s year of independence from Britain, with Chinese-backed projects now taking centre stage

The Sri Lankan government has opened a railway line extension running between Matara and Beliatta in the far south of the island.

The 26.75-kilometre-long Matara-Beliatta railway extension was declared open to the public on April 8 by transport and civil aviation minister Arjuna Ranatunga, in a ceremony also attended by finance minister Mangala Samaraweera.

The project was financed by China Exim Bank, in support of a contract awarded to China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation. The main contractors were China Railway Group 5 and Sri Lanka’s Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Ranatunga said that the railway extension project would benefit the local population immensely, especially those living in Matara and Hambantota areas.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The Matara-Beliatta railway line is the first to be constructed in Sri Lanka since 1948, and includes the longest and second-longest railway bridges of 1.5 kilometres and 1.04 kilometres respectively. The journey takes about an hour.

Ranatunga said that the remaining work of expanding the railway line from Beliatta to Hambantota and then to Kataragama (in the Uva province) would commence soon.

Hambantota Port is majority-owned by China Merchants Port Holdings under a concession agreement, and represents by far the most important China-led infrastructure project in Sri Lanka.

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