Sept 14, Colombo: The train service on the Northern Line up to the former rebel stronghold resumed after 23 years today with the opening of the Northern line from Omanthai to Kilinochchi.
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa inaugurated the train service this morning at Omanthai travelling as the first passenger to Kilinochchi aboard the historic "Yal Devi" train which operated up to Omanthai earlier.
President Rajapaksa also declared open the newly built Kilinochchi Railway Station.
Sri Lanka Railways will operate three trains to Kilinochchi daily from tomorrow. The service will include the Yal Devi, the Deyata Kirula intercity train which ran up to Medawchchiya earlier and the night mail train from Colombo.
The journey from Colombo to Kilinochchi will take about five hours. The trains could travel at a speed of 120 km per hour.
Kilinochchi was the capital of the de facto state run by the Tamil Tiger terrorist outfit Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The Sri Lankan Army captured Kilinochchi in 2009.
Sri Lanka's Northern Line from Vavuniya to Kankasanthurai in the northernmost tip of the island was completely destroyed by the Tamil Tiger terrorists during the three-decade long war. The rebels uprooted the rail tracks to build reinforced underground bunkers.
The last passenger train on this line ran on January 19, 1985. Tamil Tiger terrorists bombed the Yal Devi train at Kokavil on that day killing 34 people and destroying the train tracks. The attack effectively ended the north-south rail transport.
After the war ended in May 2009, the Yal Devi recommenced operations to Thandikulam on June 6, 2009 and then extended its run to Omanthai on May 29 of 2011.
The train line is now being reconstructed by the India Railway Construction International Ltd. (IRCON) with the assistance of the Indian government.
The construction of the whole Northern Line up to Kankasanthurai would be completed by the end of 2014 and all the previous railway stations which were destroyed in the three decade war will be rebuilt.
Minister of Transport Kumar Welgama, Minister Douglas Devananda, Governor of Northern Province G.A. Chandrasiri, High Commissioner of India Y. K. Sinha and other Ministers as well as the senior officials of Ministry and Sri Lanka Railways participated in the occasion.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)