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Notes on the Geography of Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure

The British naturally introduced modern transportation systems.

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Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure picture 1

The Kandy station platforms, still receiving a dozen trains daily.

Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure picture 2

The right-of-way has many signs warning pedestrians away, but they are universally disregarded.  The trains do move slowly.

Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure picture 3

The British built roads too, of course, and in a metric age, this British milestone survives on the Colombo-Kandy road.

Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure picture 4

A bridge from the 1820s.

Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure picture 5

The plaque recalls Governor Edward Barnes, who not only supported the development of coffee plantations but went into the business himself.  He seems to have been an inspirational leader, however: see, for example, the adulatory description of him in Fifty Years in Ceylon (1891), the autobiography of  Thomas Skinner, Ceylon's pioneer road builder.

Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure picture 6

The British bridged the Mahaweli Ganga in 1833 with a famous and elegant sandalwood-timber arch that was replaced in 1905 by an iron bridge.  For pedestrians in this densely populated area, they also built many suspension bridges for pedestrians.

Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure picture 7

Such improvements kept coming throughout the colonial period.

Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure picture 8

Recently, many have been retired and replaced or supplemented by vehicular bridges.

Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure picture 9

Kandyans took to the bus, as well as the train.  The irony of this sign--nearly obscured by leaves--is that buses abound in Sri Lanka today, but there is no such thing as a formal "halting place."  The buses stop on demand, anywhere and without warning.

Sri Lanka: Kandy: British Infrastructure picture 10

A bit of a mystery: the Haloluwa Tunnel under Bahirawakanda, the ridge overlooking Kandy from the northwest.  Why was the tunnel built?  On either side, the ridge is covered with houses; those on the north side are a bit more accessible with the tunnel, but its cost seems disproportionate to that convenience.  The keystone carries the date 1954, which suggests that the tunnel was built in the early years of independence, as though planners expected urban growth.  All this, however, is very misleading: the tunnel was built between 1824 and 1831, when the tunnel formed part of the main road north from Kandy to Kurunegala.  Coffee-laden carts used it on the way from Kandy to the Mahaweli ferry, and for them the tunnel saved a couple of hours of travel time.  The tunnel became superfluous when a bridge was built across the Mahaweli at Katugastata in 1860: good thing, because the central section of the tunnel collapsed about 1870 and wasn't repaired until the 1950s.


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