Some of the projects completed by IRCON over the years
Inaugural train in Pallai-Jaffna opening
Major bridge at Km 276.010 in MRD-TMP section
Opening of Kilinochchi-Pallai section
Opening of Madhu Road-Talai Mannar Pier railway line
Paving at level crossing in MRD-TMP section
Talai Mannar pier end
IRCON International Ltd., a Government of India undertaking under the Ministry of Indian Railways, has completed five years in Sri Lanka. The company was responsible for laying the northern railway tracks which enabled the people in the north to resume travel by rail after a period of 30 years.
Speaking on the occasion of IRCON’s fifth anniversary, Project Director Shyam Lal Gupta said that IRCON International Ltd. started its Sri Lanka charter with the mandate to upgrade the Kalutara-Galle-Matara coastal railway line in March 2009.
“The coastal railway line was devastated during the tsunami in December 2004. The project involved the rehabilitation and improvement of the existing track to a modern railway track with a speed potential of 100kmph. This 114km-long project was funded through an Indian line of credit and was completed ahead of schedule in two phases. Phase I, Galle-Matara (42km) was completed and handed over to Sri Lanka Railways on 16 February 2011, while Phase II, Galle-Kalutara (72km) was put to commercial operations on 19 April 2012.”
Gupta said that thereafter the Government of Sri Lanka further requested IRCON to submit a proposal for reconstructing the northern railway lines and when subsequent to the end of war, when the former President of Sri Lanka visited India in June 2010, the Government of India announced that they would extend a very concessional line of credit of $ 800 million for the restoration of the railway lines and the installation of the signalling and telecommunication system in the Northern Province. The line of credit is a soft loan on low interest rates. There is 20-year repayment period with a five-year moratorium.
Northern railway lines
“IRCON then proceeded to undertake the reconstruction of 265 km of the northern railway lines in Sri Lanka, funded by the Government of India lines of credit in stages with the first segment of the northern railway line, namely the re-constructed railway track from Medawachchiya to Madhu Road, being handed over to the Government of Sri Lanka on 14 May 2013.”
Gupta went on to say that the second segment from Omanthai to Kilinochchi was inaugurated on 14 September 2013 by the former President of Sri Lanka by undertaking a train journey in the famous Yaldevi. Subsequently the Kilinochchi to Pallai section was handed over for commercial operations on 4 March 2014.
“The long-awaited dream of reconnecting Jaffna with Colombo via rail and recommencing services of the famous Yal Devi to Jaffna was achieved with the opening of the Pallai-Jaffna section on 13 October 2014; thereafter the stretch from Jaffna to KKS was inaugurated for train services on 2 January 2015 in record time.”
The last and final segment of the northern railway line from Madhu Road to Talai Mannar Pier (63km) was inaugurated on 14 March by the Prime Minister of India.
As part of the northern railway projects, IRCON has also handed over six new locomotives to Sri Lanka Railways. The installation of the signalling and telecommunication system in the sections has also been completed and commissioned with the opening of sections, while the new railway tracks are designed with a speed potential of 120kmph.
Gupta stated that the rail joints have been replaced using state-of-the-art welding technology, while latest technologies such as pre-stressed concrete sleepers, CMS (Cast Manganese Steel) crossings with standard turnouts, long welded rails with switch expansion joints, modern signalling and telecommunication system, mechanised tamping and packing, etc. have been incorporated to provide a long-lasting track, with minimal maintenance efforts.
“IRCON not only executed the projects but also imparted various technical and managerial training skills to personnel from Sri Lanka Railways and the CECB who were associated with the projects. This training is very beneficial to persons from Sri Lanka in maintaining the railway track standards of long welded rails,” said Gupta.
Employment and revenue
During the execution of these projects, IRCON made use of local manpower as well as agencies, thus providing huge employment opportunities as well as skills development for local personnel, said Gupta.
Besides the enormous benefits being reaped by the public of Sri Lanka due to the restoration of rail connectivity between the northern and the southern parts of the country, the Government of Sri Lanka acting through the Ministry of Internal Transport is also earning huge revenues by way of sales of travel tickets. “It is learnt that the Yal Devi train is running full, with bookings being done several days in advance,” said Gupta.
Apart from reconstructing the railway lines, IRCON is actively involved in a variety of CSR projects in Sri Lanka as well. IRCON focuses on CSR initiatives where there is value creation in the longer term, demonstrating its commitment and respect to all its stakeholders.
IRCON’s social commitments are carried out in five key focus areas, namely education, health, community development, generation of self-employment and empowerment of women. Various CSR activities carried out in the Northern and Western Provinces have resulted in IRCON becoming an integral part of the community in which it operates.
Under the CSR initiative, IRCON has so far completed construction of two health units with ambulance facilities at Medawachchiya and Mankulam, the renovation of the community hall at Talaimannar, construction of a community hall at Matugama, seating benches for railway stations of the coastal line, distribution of computers and computer furniture to underprivileged schools at Matugama, distribution of bicycles for women and students in the Vavuniya District and construction of a vocational training centre at Matugama, development of a playground-cum-community gathering place at Palinda Nuwara, and the provision of school kits for 5,000 under-privileged children, etc.
Timely execution and high quality work
“The timely execution and high quality of work provided by IRCON has been widely appreciated in Sri Lanka. We at IRCON have played a significant role in Sri Lanka’s railway infrastructure development by mobilising huge fleets of machinery and manpower for the restoration of the railway lines in the Northern Province. With the completion of the Northern Province railway lines, IRCON is very keen to assist Sri Lanka Railways in any of its future infrastructure development projects in line with the priorities of the railway transport sector,” said Gupta.
Gupta also expressed his appreciation to the Government of Sri Lanka for giving IRCON the opportunity to work in Sri Lanka. Gupta further added that the Government of Sri Lanka should make all efforts to ensure that the trains can cover the distance from Colombo to Jaffna and Colombo to Trincomalee in 4 to 4.5 hours.