The train service from Colombo Fort to Madhu resumed yesterday for the convenience of pilgrims visiting the Our Lady of Madhu shrine for the annual feast.
The Medawachchiya- Madhu rail track destroyed by the LTTE has been re-laid with the assistance of the Indian government.
The reconstructed railway track was commissioned by Minister of economic Development Basil Rajapaksa along with the High Commissioner of India in Colombo Ashok Kantha on May 16 this year.
The Sri Lanka Railway will deploy eight extra trains in addition to the daily trains from Colombo Fort to Medawachchiya and back, from August 12 to August 16 during the feast.
The trains will also be available for the devotees to return from Thursday. He said that special train services will operate from the Madhupura railway station to Colombo Fort, Aluthgama, Moratuwa and Negombo on August 15 and 16.
Thousands of pilgrims used to visit the shrine, especially during the church feast in August, before terrorists took control of the area in 1999 and prevented them from worshipping at the sacred shrine and paying homage to the statue of Our Lady of Madhu, considered to have miraculous powers.
The LTTE cadres occupied the church premises and precincts, had weapons placed in the area setup road blocks and prevented pilgrims from entering the sacred area without their permission.
The LTTE also used the Sacred Madhu Church as a safe place for its armed cadres. As the armed forces tried to dislodge them, the LTTE carried out mortar attacks that badly damaged the shrine. Accordingly, the priests at the shrine were compelled to take the venerated statue deeper into LTTE held area in the hope of safety for the much venerated statue.
The statue was brought back after security forces drove the LTTE out of the entire Madhu Church area in 2008. On the instructions of President Rajapaksa the Sri Lankan Army carried out restoration work on the shrine at a cost of Rs1.18 million.
Catholics in many areas are reported to be making arrangements to arrive in large numbers for the annual feast at Madhu in August this year too.
Meanwhile, the Transport Ministry has introduced special bus and train services for pilgrims attending the feast.