Yaal Devi: Euphoria, Lampoon and Caveat as Trains to Jaffna run again

MR in YAAAL   “Jaffna, here I come’  President greeting the people of Jaffna”

02- r'way to jaffna

01- YAL 11 President Rajapaksa with Douglas Devananda in carriage as Yaal Devi enters Jaffna train station – AP DD and MRIsland Pic 

YAL reaches Jaffna

03-YAL 3 The ‘Queen of Jaffna’ service runs along a 250-mile route between Jaffna and Columbo, Sri Lanka’s capital” -file image

05- YAL 10

06-YAL 1

04-YAL 4 “Sri Lankan ethnic Tamils get themselves photographed in front of the train after it arrived in Jaffna train station” –AP

YAL 2 “Ethnic Tamil schoolgirls in Jaffa waiting for the the official ceremony to mark the resumption of the ‘Queen of Jaffna’ service” — AFP Getty

YAL 5 “All aboard: The new train is not a luxury train, although some of its coaches will have air conditioning, Internet access and televisions” – AP

 YAL 15 YAL 16 YAL 7

YAL 14

Jaffna Railway station TODAY

YAL 13 03- YAL DEVI l-houes

Jaffna Railway station YESTERDAY in 2009 … to 1990


SEE http://thuppahis.com/2014/09/29/a-path-to-nowhere-jaffna-to-colombo-railtrack-1980s-to-2009/#more-13848

14-Jaffan 22

Dasun Edirisinghe:President on first train to Jaffna on restored rail track,” Island, 14 October 2014

The Yal Devi Express yesterday reached Jaffna Railway Station after a lapse of 24 years with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on board. Northern Rail track destroyed by the LTTE was restored in three phases by the Indian Government subsidiary IRCON International from Omanthai to Kilinochchi (90km), Kilinochchi-Pallai (27.5km) and Pallai-Kankesanthurai (56km). The first segment was opened by President Rajapaksa on May 14, 2013 and the second by Transport Minister Kumara Welgama on March 04, 2014.

With the opening of 40km Pallai-Jaffna stretch by the President yesterday people can now reach Jaffna from Colombo within seven hours.

According to the IRCON International, a novel signaling and telecommunication system from Anuradhapura, covering the entire northern rail link (313 Km) was also being installed. President Rajapaksa accompanied by Transport Minister Kumara Welgama and Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Minister Douglas Devananda boarded the train at Pallai Station. He also reopened Kodikamam, Chavakachcheri and Navatkuli Stations on the way.

The Northern Railway line opened in 1884 is the longest with 83 stations. First train from Colombo arrived at Jaffna in 1905 and it took 13 hours and 20 minute to reach Jaffna. However, Yal Devi Express which started its operation in 1956 reducing the journey time to seven hours.

The operation between Vavuniya and Kankesanthurai was stopped in 1990 after the Yal Devi train was blasted by a mine laid by the LTTE. IRCON Project Manager S. L. Gupta said that the entire line up to Kakesanthurai would be opened by end of the year, six months ahead of the schedule.


Krishan Francis:Can Queen of Jaffna train reunite Sri Lanka?” The Scotsman, 12 October 2014

A ONCE-popular train linking the ethnic Tamil region to the rest of Sri Lanka comes back into service next week, 24 years after a bloody civil war cut the link to the region.

The return of the Queen of Jaffna marks a step toward restoring national unity five years after the government defeated Tamil separatists.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa will inaugurate the service along the 250-mile route between Jaffna and the capital Colombo, in a ceremony tomorrow. Rebuilding the railway, stretches of which disappeared as rebels and ­residents used rails and sleepers to build bunkers and houses, is one of the government’s big infrastructure projects to contribute to the economy in the north and win over Tamils, many of whom are still ­estranged after the war.

Like the old version, the new Queen of Jaffna is not a luxury train, although some of its coaches will have air conditioning, internet access and televisions. The new track will make for a faster, smoother ride, with the trip taking about six hours.

The line was shut down in 1990 as militants from the ­Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, stepped up attacks in the north to push for their own ­independent state.

The train is important symbolically. Before the war, as well as being the most convenient way to travel between the two cities, it was also a symbol of unity between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority. At the time, Tamils dominated bureaucratic and state service posts, and many civil servants based in Colombo used it to visit friends and family in the north.

“We took the train to Jaffna for weekends and came back by the same on Sunday evenings,” said Karuna Navaratnam, a 69-year-old retired teacher, who travelled on the route frequently in the 1970s.

Now settled in Colombo, ­Navaratnam recalled the train travelling through rice paddies and farms on its way to Jaffna, which was once the seat of a Tamil kingdom before it was colonised in turn by the Portuguese, Dutch and British.

“As day broke we saw villagers about their business in the morning,” she said. “As we approached Jaffna, we sensed the smell of its palmyra palm trees, abundant in the north.”

Navaratnam remembered people from her village standing on the platform to welcome relatives and loved ones.

When the war erupted in 1983, the train was a main ­artery in Sri Lanka’s commerce, transporting fish from the north to the capital, and connecting the islanders, regardless of ethnic identity.

Since the service stopped, Jaffna has had no trains, meaning many of the city’s children have never seen one.

“Some younger people here do not know what a train is. I know its value,” said 50-year-old R Thiyagarajah, who hopes the train will help boost ­Jaffna’s economy through tourism and cargo shipments.

As rebels increased their attacks in the 1980s, the government stationed soldiers, mostly Sinhalese, in Jaffna who used the train to return home for visits. That made the Queen of Jaffna a rebel target.

In 1985, rebels blew it up, killing 22 soldiers and 11 civilians and wounding 44 others, in the single largest attack on the military at the time. Five years later, the service was cut back as Tamil Tigers took control of Jaffna peninsula.

Restoring the link is an important step, physically and symbolically, in rebuilding the country, the government said.

“In the past, it was not only a mode of transport, but a ­cultural bridge between the Sinhalese here and the Tamils there,” a spokesman said. The project was an “incentive to enhance ­communal harmony and friendship”.

But the railroad’s resumption also clearly shows that the government, dominated by the majority Sinhalese, is stamping its authority on the north.

During the war, both sides attached huge importance to capturing and holding key routes into Jaffna, including the railway and the parallel A9 road, dubbed “the highway of death” for the number of lives lost in battles for its control. It has since been rebuilt.

Now with the Queen of Jaffna scheduled to start running again, thanks to an £498 million loan from India, restoration of government authority in the north will be complete.

However, many Tamils feel such infrastructure projects will not bring true national unity. Deep wounds have been left by the war, which took at least 100,000 lives on both sides over more than 25 years, according to estimates by the United Nations, although the real death toll is suspected to be much higher.

Rajapaksa’s government has resisted pressure from abroad to investigate alleged war crimes. It has also been accused of resettling Sinhalese civilians and soldiers in the north to break up the Tamil dominance of the area, and some believe the railway will speed up that process.

“The people welcome this because they have transport difficulties, but they also think it is the military that will benefit from this more,” said Shanmuganathan Sajeevan, an activist campaigning for the return of property seized from Tamils during the war.

P SARA “Despite lingering issues, the railroad may well move the country toward greater unity,” said Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, an analyst with the independent Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo. “Let’s hope that politics will follow infrastructure,” he said.


VIDEO:Jaffna Train Rides Again 24 Years After It Was Suspended During Sri Lankan Civil War – TV9″ ….. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiVyJ7dGTJk


Government Blurb, Ministry of Defence, http://defence.lk/new.asp?fname=Yal_Devi_reaches_Jaffna_after_24_years_20141012_02

Yal Devi reaches Jaffna after 24 years

The resumption of the iconic Yal Devi train service between Colombo and Jaffna after nearly 24 years, with its ceremonial inauguration tomorrow by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Jaffna, marks a significant milestone in the Government’s mega development programs for the terrorism ravaged Northern province.

Senior Government officials at the station

Perhaps it is the culmination of development programs related to road and rail transport, infrastructure and connectivity between the North and South.

The rail and road links were savagely destroyed by the LTTE terrorists. The railway lines and the A9 road which now connects the North and South symbolise a new beginning towards a united nation and a common national outlook, authoritative sources said.

The India Railway Construction International (IRCON), an Indian railway subsidiary, has now completed the restoration of the railway lines from Palai to Jaffna under the $ 8,000 Million line of credit from India.

Previously the IRCON had restored a section of the lines from Omanthai to Palai. Nearly 4,000 workers, including 400 skilled labourers from India, have been working on the project for over four years.

The 339 Km line is the longest in the country. The Jaffna railway station has been renovated with assistance from the Bank of Ceylon (BoC).

Reconstructed Jaffna Railway station

Yal Devi train devastated in LTTE bomb attack in 1985

The BoC has provided many modern facilities at the railway station while also preserving its cultural architecture.

United nation

In April 1956 , a point of time when the country was one united nation, away from any communal discontent, the CGR put in the following advertisement in an English-language daily announcing the ‘Three Lovely Sisters ‘train services – the Uda Rata Menike, the Yal Devi and the Ruhunu Kumari – and thus began the iconic Yal Devi train service to Jaffna which became part and parcel of the life of the Northern people.

Many people recall nostalgic memories of their travels, to and fro, with their families, surprise meetings with relatives or lost-touch-with friends and other interesting experiences.

It was the ‘northern line’ with the Yal Devi or the ‘Princess of Jaffna’ ruling the tracks that formed the main artery joining the north to the south, bringing with it integration, exchange and friendship. In 1985, approximately 100 individuals died as a result of the bomb attack carried out by the LTTE on the Yal Devi train.

In 1990, the Yal Devi stopped operating past Vavuniya because of the declining security situation.

One of the first casualties of terrorist attacks was the disruption and intermittent severance of linkages by the terrorists between the North and the South as early as 1985.

The A9 road that connected the Jaffna peninsula and the northern part was also closed after terrorists overran townships along the roadway around 1990.

However, the military defeat of the LTTE in May 2009 changed the entire set up and the people of the North awoke to a fresh new world, one filled with prospects of peace and social well-being.

Democracy has been fully restored and all democratically-elected bodies, including the Provincial Council, the Municipal Council, Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas are functioning.

The district and the Jaffna city are fast returning to their pristine glory as important economic and educational epicentres of the region.

A multitude of development-oriented mega projects have been implemented in the district to wipe off the scars of terrorism and to make it a model district.

As a major project in the health sector, the Jaffna Teaching Hospital project has been completed at an expenditure of Rs.2,900 Mn under funding from the Japanese JICA.

Rs.7,272.689 Mn has been allocated in 2013 for development and renovation of the railway sector, all other transport sectors, including road transport and aviation, social infrastructure, the administrative sector, agricultural sector and tourism sector in the district, according to district secretariat sources.

Five-year plan

Many projects with funding from the Ministry of Economic Development and other line ministries, are under implementation to construct modern towns, more housing complexes, improved agricultural and fisheries facilities, electricity supply to the entire region and enhanced irrigation facilities.

CGR advertisement announcing the train service launch in 1956

A five-year plan at a total cost of Rs.49,888.16 Million for implementing 2,603 projects in the sectors of irrigation, agriculture, livestock development, fisheries, water supply and sanitation, roads and bridges, electricity, education, health, housing, industries, social welfare and environmental management has also been formulated, the sources said.

The amount that was allocated for the Jaffna-Kilinochchi Water Supply and Sanitation Project under the Iranamadu Water Supply Scheme is Rs.18,328.18 Mn.

A population of 435,000 living in the DS divisions of Jaffna, Thenmaradchchi, Karaveddy, Velanai, Kopay, Sandilipay, Chankanai, Nallur, Karainagar, Kayts, Poonakery and Palai will be benefited under the project.

Although the entire project was originally estimated to be completed in seven years, steps have been initiated to accelerate the project, according to secretariat sources. It is an ADB, AFD and GoSL funded project.

The Ministry of Fisheries has introduced several welfare schemes for the fisher families and has provided all assistance including fishing gears, vessels, docking piers, fisheries harbours and marketing facilities. With fertile fishing ground in the Northern seas fish production is on an increasing trend.

Total land

The Atchuvely Industrial Estate, with the funding of Rs.253.80 Mn from the Government of India and Rs.26.20 Mn from the GoSL, is producing aluminum hardware, stainless steel products, coconut oil, sodium silicate, soap, poultry feed, canned fruits, printing ink and glassware.

The total land area is 64 acres, 36 factory units operate and employment has been provided to 2,000 persons.

The Rs.2.5 Billion Cultural Centre constructed under the auspices of the Government of India is nearing completion, marking an important milestone in the restoration of facilities for the people to pursue their cultural and religious activities. The Jaffna city is now a picturesque sight and the city streets are bustling with life.

Courtesy : Sunday Observer

 ALSO SEE ……….. http://www.dailymirror.lk/54323/northern-trains-earn-rs-3-mn-in-four-days





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