Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-10-28 23:28:41
A 272-million-US- dollar China-funded railway project, which includes the longest tunnel in Sri Lanka, kicked off here on Monday, amidst praise for the Chinese government by a top official in Sri Lanka.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's brother and Speaker of Parliament Chamal Rajapaksa was the main guest at the event, which took place in the southern town of Beliatta.
"We are thankful for the Chinese government that has enabled us to do these large scale infrastructure projects. Without their help these would not be possible. This railway was envisioned from the time of my father and for decades it never happened but now his son has made it a reality," Rajapaksa said referring to his brother the president.
Rajapaksa also noted that the railway would provide more economic opportunities for Sri Lankan people and brighten their future.
He outlined numerous projects that have been started in Rajapaksa's home town of Hambantota, which include a 1.2-billion-US-dollar port and the country's second international airport, which the railway will link together and spur development in the southern part of Sri Lanka.
The new project, which will be completed in 2016, is the first phase project of the Southern Railway.
The total length of railway of this project is 26.75 kilometers. It is a single line and broad-gauge railway on which trains with diesel traction could run as fast as about 120 km per hour.
The project, which will be built in three phrases, is funded by the Export-Import Bank of China.
The general contracting unit is China National Machinery Corporation while the design has been subcontracted to the Consortium of Parsons Brinckerhoff and China Railway Fifth Survey And Design Institute Group Co., Ltd.
This project is the first railroad project that a Chinese company undertakes in Sri Lanka based on Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode, and the first new railway construction in Sri Lanka within a century.
It will establish an important network comprising air, sea and road transportation and is expected to change Sri Lanka's economic backwardness and play an important role in bringing economic revival in Sri Lanka.
The project will further strengthen the bi-lateral relations and the economic and trade cooperation between China and Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa added.
On Sunday, President Rajapaksa opened the island's second highway, which was also built with a Chinese loan of 292 million U. S. dollars.
The highway will be used by leaders of 53 Commonwealth nations when they arrive to take part in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) hosted by Sri Lanka next month.
The new expressway will reduce travel time between the country's international airport and capital city to just 20 minutes.
Since Sri Lanka ended a 30-year war in 2009, China has emerged at the island's largest loan provider by granting 1.2 billion US dollars in loans in 2009 and 821 million dollars in 2010.