A rail link to the world
A rail corridor has been mooted between Chennai and
Colombo as part of a SAARC initiative to increase connectivity
between member countries.
The project, if realised, would be the first ever travel link
from any country to Sri Lanka’s capital city. Such a direct
physical link between the two countries and the commencement of
the proposed Colombo-Cochin ferry service will be a major boon
to the economies of both countries.
This direct physical connection to the Asian mainland will
virtually end Sri Lanka’s island status, in the same way that
the Channel Tunnel integrated the UK with the European mainland.
Given that Sri Lanka has signed a pact for an Asia-wide rail
network, the Government should provide every encouragement to
It will be another bridge building exercise with our giant
neighbour to follow in the numerous other bridge building
efforts over the years. A rail link will be an enormously
expensive project and both countries need to work closely on the
While reinforcing friendly neighbourly relations the move
could also be a stepping stone for improved relations between
Sri Lankans and their Tamil Nadu counterparts, which had been
somewhat strained over the decades due to the ethnic conflict.
It would provide an opportunity for the visitors to get a
better insight and understanding of the Sri Lankan situation
vis-à-vis the ethnic conflict. In the long run it could help
dispel the suspicions entertained by some segments across the
Palk Strait about the ethnic question.
Apart from the economic benefits, one can only imagine the
socio-cultural revolution spurred by a Lanka-India rail link.
However, for the link to be truly effective, both countries
should ease visa regulations.
This facility could be made use of by a large number of our
Buddhist pilgrims to visit the birthplace of the Enlightened One
since the train journey would offer cheaper passage over air
Lankan film fans may just ‘catch the train’ to watch the
latest Bollywood or Hollywood blockbuster in Chennai. We can
also expect a deluge of Indian cricket fans during tours here by
the Indian team.
Casual visitors and shoppers in both countries will also
benefit. The train will help exporters in both countries to
‘ship’ goods at lower freight rates, translating into cheaper
goods for consumers.
The escalation of the conflict saw an end to the earlier
Talaimannar ferry service and now the only travel mode is by
The entry of low-cost airlines such as Mihin Lanka has made
air travel to India more affordable, but more flights between
the two countries are needed.
If and when the train project gets on track, the Government
needs to be circumspect and exercise caution given the inherent
tensions spawned by the current conflict which has had a
spillover effect in Tamil Nadu. Precautions are necessary
therefore to ensure extremists on both sides do not exploit the
facility for their ulterior motives.
However, with globalisation now rendering national borders
meaningless, Sri Lanka would do well to make use of the
opportunity to integrate itself more with the rest of the world.
The Chennai-Colombo rail link could be the beginning of this