The famous north-bound Yal Devi train resumed carrying passengers to Jaffna today (Oct. 13), after a 24-year lapse, when President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared open the Northern Railway Line up to Jaffna joining the inaugural drive as a special passenger.
In line with this, the Jaffna Railway Station also was opened by the President. The Jaffna railway station is now featured many modern facilities including novel communication electronic signal system.
Three railway stations between Palai and Jaffna located in Kodikamam, Chavakachcheri and Navatkuli were also opened by the President.
The Government of India provided financial and technical assistance to reconstruct the Northern Railway Line.
The LTTE bombed the Yal Devi train at Kokavil on January 19, 1985 killing 34 people and destroying the train tracks. The attack effectively ended the north-south rail transport by 1990. Before the end of the conflict the service was limited to Vavuniya due to the terrorist activities in the region. The railway line from Vavuniya to Kankasanthurai was completely destroyed by the terrorists and uprooted the rail tracks to build reinforced underground bunkers.
Following the end of the conflict in May 2009, the Government pledged to reconstruct the Northern Rail Line north of Medawchchiya destroyed by LTTE terrorists and restore the service.
The opening of train services to Jaffna is viewed as a welcome move towards restoring the connection between the Tamils in the North and the majority Sinhalese in the South.
Railway general manager B.A.P. Ariyaratne said the general public will be able to use train services to Jaffna from Tuesday. In addition to Yal Devi two intercity trains and a night mail will also ply to Jaffna daily.
The Colombo - Jaffna, Northern Railway Line up to Jaffna was reconstructed at a cost of Rs, 58 billion with the financial assistance from India. It has been constructed to accommodate trains speeding up to 120 kilometers per hour.
After the conflict ended in May 2009, the Yal Devi recommenced operations to Thandikulam on June 6, 2009 and then extended its run to Omanthai on May 29 of 2011. It commenced services to Kilinochchi in September 2013 and extended the service to Pallai in March this year.
According to the Assistant General Manager of Indian Railways Construction Company (IRCON) V.K. Jayasankar, the project to reconstruct railway lines covers two key rail routes in the Tamil-majority Northern Province.
Work on the line from Medawachchiya to Talaimannar is also nearly complete and is likely to be opened in December, he said.
The first train to Jaffna is reported to have arrived in 1905 but the Yal Devi was introduced much later in 1956, running full for many years till the brutal war halted its journey in 1990.
The Yal Devi was a favoured option for many frequent passengers, especially those from Jaffna working in Colombo who went home for the weekend.
The India Railway Construction International (IRCON), an Indian railway subsidiary, has now completed the restoration of the railway lines from Palai to Jaffna and the Government will be run the train from Jaffna to Kankasanthurai soon.