The Matara-Kataragama Railway Line is a 114.5km-long Sri Lankan railway project. The project will extend the coastal line from Matara to Kataragama.
It is one of the pilot projects being built under the Mahinda Chinthnaya (which means Vision for the Future in Sri Lanka’s Sinhala language), a multi-year policy programme launched by the Sri Lanka Government with the aim of driving the nation’s economic growth rate forward.
The Matara-Kataragama rail line added to the existing 1,450km of national rail network. Estimated at $366m, the project was owned and will operated by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Transport. The project was completed in 2015.
The new rail line, which is being built in collaboration with China, aims to facilitate efficient and economic transport services in the region by promoting competition between rail and road transport. It is also intended to help commuters travelling to remote areas of Matara while increasing the number of pilgrims visiting the sacred places in the Southern Province
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) to construct the line was signed between the Sri Lankan Government and China in 2006.
The first phase of the project was completed in April 2019. Financing for the rail line extension was provided by the Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim Bank). China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation won the contract for the extension project. Most of the construction was handled by Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau. China Railway No.5 Group (CR5) and Sri Lankan state-owned enterprise Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB) performed the majority of the construction. China Railway Electrification Engineering Group is also part of the project.
Matara-Kataragama railway line project details
The project is being carried out in three stages with the laying of double track in the entire route. However, only a single track was planned to be constructed initially.
Stage 1 consists of a 27km-long railway route from Matara to Beliatta. Construction works on this section began in April 2010 and the route was opened to the public in April 2019.
The route includes four main stations at Kekanadura, Bambarenda, Wewurukannala and Beliatta and two sub-stations at Piladuwa and Weharahena. More stations are planned to be added on this section in future depending on passenger demand.
As of July 2010, around 1,411 land plots were acquired from residents for the construction of the railway line between Matara and Beliatta. The Railway Department had to pay LKR710m as compensation to the people from whom the land was acquired. Civil and path clearing works were also carried out.
The 48km-long second phase will involve a continuation of the railway track from Beliatta to Hambantota, while the final phase will include a 39.5km-long rail line from Hambantota to Kataragama.
The project will have all-new railway crossings developed over the main roads to avoid accidents.
The Matara-Beliatta section has 12 bridges. A new 170m-long bridge across the Nilwala Ganga situated a mile away from the Matara Railway Station was completed in August 2008 after a two-year construction period.
Constructed at a cost of LKR91m, it is the longest railway bridge in the country. Around 90% of the construction cost was carried out by the CITIC.
Stage I also featured bridges at Walawe Ganga, Kirindi Oya and Kirama Oya, which are expensive and time-consuming. The route has a 600m-long tunnel.
The travel time between Matara and Beliatta is 20 minutes and the trains travel at a speed of 120km/h.
Sri Lankan railways
Railways account for just 7% of land transport in Sri Lanka with road transport accounting for 93%. Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, connects to the main cities of Kandy, Galle, Matara, Anuradhapura, Gampaha, Negombo, Kurunegala, Avissawella, Kalutara, Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Badulla, Gampola, Nawalapitiya, Matale, Vavuniya, Puttalam and Chilaw, located across nine provinces.
The first rail line was opened in April 1867 between Colombo and Kandy. Most of the railways were developed only during British rule as distribution networks for the plantations that grew products such as tea, rubber and coconut. This resulted in railways focusing more on the plantation areas and less on the population and service centres.
The lines to Jaffna, Kankesanturai and Mannar were destroyed by the LTTE group.
Some of the narrow gauge lines from Nanu Oys to Nuwara Eliya, Avissawella to Yatiyantota and Avissawella to Ratnapura and Opanayaka have been dismantled as they incurred financial losses.