Kochi-Colombo ferry service soon

"We have also already constructed the required local infrastructure to commence the proposed ferry service from Colombo to Kochi and to Tuticorin," Sri Lankan Transport Minister Dullas Alahapperuma told the second meeting of the SAARC Transport Ministers' here yesterday.

Alahapperuma said that a ferry connecting Colombo with Kochi in Kerala will create more benefits to both countries as it would significantly reduce the transport cost between India and Sri Lanka.

The ferry service would be one of the key connecting links in strengthening trade, social and cultural interaction among the people of SAARC member states, the meeting was told.

To this end, air connectivity between New Delhi and Male in Maldives would also be operationalised.

According to the Minister, after completion of the rail track reconstruction from Colombo to Thalaimannar, the passenger ferry service from Thalaimannar Pier to India will become a reality.

He said President Mahinda Rajapaksa has directed streamlining of the transport service between the two countries.

The possibility of train services between Sri Lanka and India in the future was also discussed during the meeting.

The popular ferry service between Thalaimannar on Sri Lanka's northwest coast and Dhanushkodi in India, which also had a railway link, was suspended during the 1980s due to the fighting between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan military.

"Sadly even between Sri Lanka and India, the regular ferry service that used to operate from Talaimanner to Rameshwaram has not been able to operate for over 25 years," the Sri Lankan minister said.

The grouping's ministers also agreed to name the decade from 2009 to 2019 as the 'SAARC Regional Transport Cooperation Decade' to foster cooperation among the nations in the region.

The SAARC Transport Ministers also discussed ways to reduce barriers at border crossings in the region to encourage more travel and transport of goods and measures to link the member states by a railway network, the Minister added.

SAARC groups India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan.

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