Matara - Beliatta railway extension commissioned

A ceremonial train carrying Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranathunga, State Minister Asoka Abeysinghe, former Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, Members of Parliament Chamal Rajapaksa, Mahinda Amaraweera, Southern Province Governor Keerthi Tennakion and a host of other local politicians and representatives of the Chinese government and contractors left Matara Station tor Beliatta at the 9 a.m. yesterday morning commisioning the Matara - Beliatta railway extension.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was represented by his brother Member of Parliament Chamal Rajapaksa.

The ministers and other dignitaries disembarked and unveiled ceremonial plaques at sub-stations at Piladuwa, Werahena and the main stations at Kekanadura, Bambarenda, Wewurukannala and Beliatta. Large crowds lined the 26.75 km railway track and stations and cheered as the train passed by.

Addressing the public meeting held at Beliatta which commenced after chanting of Sri Lanka and Chineese Buddhist stanzas, State Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Ashoka Abeysinghe said that a railway line beyond Matara was envisaged by President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1991.

He said that the government appreciated initiative taken by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to complete the project.

Former Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said that during his tenure he had initiated a feasibility study for phase two of the project from Beliatta to Hambanthota and finally to Kataragama and hoped that the present government would make it a reality.

Member of Parliament Mahinda Amaraweera, a former Minister of Railways reiterated that it was a public necessity that the railway line be extended upto Kataragama and pledged the fullest cooperation and support.

Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa said that this project was a boon to the future generations and said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted his wishes conveyed.

He also echoed the words of the earlier speakers and requested that it was imperative that steps be taken to extend the railway to Tissamaharama and Kataragama.

State Minister Dilip Wedarachchi said that the people of the Hambanthota district can boast of having an international airport, a harbour and now a railway. He thanked all those who initiated the projects said that the people should welcome development irrespective of political affiliations.

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranathunge said that both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wanted train services to Beliatta operative before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

He also said the Ministry would take all steps to make the railway extension beyond Beliatta a reality in the near future.

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