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Last Updated: Monday, 21 February, 2005, 10:39 GMT
Strike halts tsunami train return
Trial run of the Queen of the Sea
Sunday's trial run passed the wreckage of its predecessor
The last regular service of Sri Lanka's Queen of the Sea ended in what is believed to be the world's worst train disaster, in the Asian tsunami.

On Sunday there was a trial run, amid great fanfare, of the new service from Colombo to the south.

But passengers' hopes for the return of scheduled services on Monday were dashed by a rail workers' strike.

"This can happen only on my island in the sun," said passenger Somapala Guruge as he hitched a ride on a truck.

Rude awakening

The coastal route was suspended after the 26 December tsunami that took the lives of nearly 31,000 Sri Lankans, perhaps more than 800 of them from the Queen of the Sea.

Crash scene
The crash at Telwatta cost more than 800 lives

Up to 1,500 people had been crammed inside the train as it travelled 75 miles (110km) from Colombo to the southern city of Galle.

The force of the tsunami threw the train's eight cars into a bog and left the coastal railroad a twisted mess of metal.

On Sunday, the first trial-service train on the restored track travelled the same route.

The flag-decorated engine hauled six coaches on a symbolic journey that passed the wrecked cars of its predecessor at Telwatta along the way.

But on Monday, passengers wanting to take the service got a rude awakening when a strike by engine drivers caught authorities by surprise.

The strike was announced just hours after the trial run.

Mr Guruge, a retired civil servant visiting relatives in a tent-town near Galle, told the Reuters news agency: "You wait for two months to catch a train and the trip is delayed."


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