By Tang Lu, Jamila Najmuddin
COLOMBO, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) — Sri Lanka has always been regarded by travel enthusiasts as “a country with the most beautiful railway network in the world.”
If you are travelling in Sri Lanka and have not taken the “mountain train” that runs through the lush green tea gardens in the Alpine Central Highlands, you have missed something deliriously enchanting.
While the view from the train is breathtakingly beautiful, the ride itself can be quite bumpy and shaky. As the train winds its way round mountains and the turns are often very sharp, the passengers often find it difficult to keep their balance. This is because both the train and the railway tracks are decades old.
Given the difficult terrain in the mountains, high standards are required in the construction of the mountain line, and these standards are now being met fully in the new trains designed and manufactured by China.
On Nov. 1, the latest version of the luxury train named Denuwara Menike manufactured by CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co., Ltd. was put into operation for the first time.
On the high quality Chinese trains, passengers can now enjoy a comfortable and smooth ride while enjoying the beauty of the tea gardens and the lush mountains.
The train, an S14 Diesel Multiple Unit, consists of two power locomotives, two air-conditioned cars, two second-class cars, three third-class cars and a car with a canteen.
The Denuwara Menike, which runs between Colombo and Badulla, in the central hills, will complete the journey in 8 hours and 43 minutes.
The train can carry a total of 400 commuters including 88 in AC compartments, 96 in second class compartments and 216 in third class compartments, the Railway Department said.
The first-class is air-conditioned and equipped with TVs. The conditions in the second and third-class cars are also much better than the old trains.
Entering the mountainous area, the train goes past jungle canyons, culverts and tea gardens. Thrilled by the beauty outside, young passengers hang out of the train, clutching door handles and taking selfies and pictures of each other in happy and even daring poses.
Su Xiaofeng, a designer in CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co., Ltd., said that there is a screen in each car showing useful information about the journey and the facilities available.
Sri Lankans are keenly interested in the newly-launched mountain train. Many of the passengers who took the ride put their thumbs up when they saw the Xinhua reporter.
“Thanks to China for making this for Sri Lanka. It is a comfortable train,” they said with a broad smile on their faces.
Hewa, a Sri Lankan business manager, took the train on Nov. 2 that returned to capital Colombo from the central highlands of Kandy. Hewa travels between Badulla in Central Sri Lanka and Colombo on the west coast almost every month to see his mother.
He spoke glowingly to Xinhua about the new deluxe train after recalling the hardships he had to face in the past.
“The mountain line was beautiful, but the bumps used to make me uncomfortable every time I took a ride,” Hewa said. “But this is no longer the case with the introduction of the modern Chinese-made train,” he said.
“I learnt from a friend who works at the railway station that a Chinese-made luxury train is about to be put into use. So I decided to go to Badulla by this train. Luckily, my trip happened to take place on the day the train was inaugurated,” he said.
“My decision was very wise. The newly-launched train is not only comfortable but also very safe. The other aspect that I like is the information put out on the train. This is very educative.”
“I also appreciate the creation of space for dumping garbage in the compartment itself which makes the compartment spick and span. At present, most of the trains in Sri Lanka do not have garbage bins and passengers throw trash out of the train, spoiling the environment,” Hewa said.
The Sri Lankan Railway currently operates about 150 diesel locomotives, many of which are more than 30 years old.
In an effort to modernize the railways and attract more foreign tourists, the Sri Lankan government has purchased nine trains of the same type from China.
The first luxury train was officially put into commercial operation on Nov. 1 and the remaining eight will arrive later this year and early next year.
(The featured image at the top is that of Denuwara Menike. Photo and Video by Tang Lu)