The Sri Lankan government declared on Monday to open a railway line constructed between Matara and Beliatta in the southern part of the island country which will hopefully boost passenger traffic into the deep south.
In the Matara railway station, a special train set off on its maiden journey on the newly-built railway around 9:00 a.m. local time, and arrived at the final Beliatta station an hour later.
The 26.75-km long Matara-Beliatta railway extension was declared open for the public by Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga in the presence of Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera and other parliamentarians.
The railway extension was financed by the Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim Bank) and the contract was awarded to China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation.
A major portion of the construction was carried out by China Railway Group 5 (CR5) and Sri Lanka’s Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB).
Ranatunga, speaking at the launching ceremony, said that the railway extension project was a victory for the country as it would immensely benefit the people, especially those living in Matara and Hambantota areas.
The minister expressed gratitude to the Chinese government for their assistance in the project.
"I am also glad to be able to open this railway line before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year so that it would benefit the people travelling from Colombo to Hambantota for the New Year," Ranatunga said.
The official said the remaining work of expanding the railway line from Beliatta to Hambantota and then to Kataragama, in the Uva province will also commence soon.
The Matara-Beliatta railway line is the first to be constructed in Sri Lanka since 1948 and it includes the longest and second longest railway bridges of 1.5 km and 1.04 km, respectively.
The railway line also includes one of the tallest railway bridges, the longest railway tunnel and the most modern railway station buildings in the country.