China has built a rail line in Sri Lanka under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project.
China said that it was the first rail line to be built in Sri Lanka since 1948. The 26.75-km railway extension connecting Matara and Beliatta in southern Sri Lanka was launched on Monday was constructed by the China Railway Group 5 (CR5) and financed by the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China.
“A major portion of the construction was carried out by China Railway Group 5 (CR5) and the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB) which acted as the consultant,” the state media reported.
Trains on the track could run at 120 km per hour, the fastest in the country.
Sri Lanka became independent in 1948. The new rail segment will be a boost to Sri Lanka’s regional transportation.
New Delhi will be closely following the developments as Beijing rapidly expands its footprints on the island. In late March, China agreed to provide a loan of $ 989 million to Colombo for a highway that will connect Sri Lanka’s tea-growing central region to the China-run Hambantota port on the southern coast.
The Exim Bank agreed to provide a loan covering 85 per cent of the contract price for Central Expressway Project – Section 1, whose total cost is US$1.16 billion.
“The loan comes as Sri Lanka struggles to repay US$5.9 billion in foreign loans this year, of which 40 per cent must be paid by the end of this month. The country used its reserves to repay a US$1 billion sovereign bond loan in January. Much of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt is from China, with loans obtained to build motorways and other infrastructure projects, including some that have become white elephants, deepening the country’s debt burden,” an Associated Press report said in March.
Several BRI projects, however, are ongoing in Sri Lanka, which supports the initiative.