The First Road-Rail Bridge of Sri Lanka at Manampitiya (මනම්පිටිය පැරණි පාලම)

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Road-Rail Bridges are bridges shared by trains as well as motor vehicles. These can be as complex as a rail road going over or under the paved vehicle road to as simple as a railway line running on the centre of the road.

Sri Lanka has the distinction of having 2 unique road-rail bridges in the early 20th century. The first one was built at Manampitiya over the Mahaweli River in 1922 connecting  North Central Province with Batticaloa and the second such road-rail bridge was  Oddamavadi Bridge (also known as the Valachchanai Bridge) built in 1924 across the Valaichchenai lagoon in the eastern province.

The Manampitiya road-rail Bridge is completely built from iron and spans 296 meters across the Mahaweli River. The bridge is the only access point between Eastern Province and Central Province for about 80 km of the river.

The new bridge across Mahaweli River at Manampitya
The new bridge across Mahaweli River at Manampitya

Manampitiya Road-Rail Bridge is a fairly long but narrow bridge. The width of the bridge is approximately 4.5 meters and the railroad is built in the center of the bridge. The great Mahaweli River runs over 50 meters below the Bridge. But during heavy rain, the water level of the river climbs above the bridge level flooding the whole area of Manampitiya.

Being such a narrow bridge, there is no room for two vehicles to pass, so any vehicle crossing the bridge has to wait till all the traffic passes in the opposite direction. But the most significant feature of this bridge is the railway track running right in the centre of the road. So if you are unlucky enough, this was one of the only 2 places in Sri Lanka where your vehicle can come face to face with a train with nowhere to go. Fortunately, this bridge was manned by the Sri Lankan Army and two army checkpoints on both sides controlled both rail and motor vehicle traffic.

This marvel served the Sri Lankan motorists for over 85 years and in 2007, a new bridge was constructed in parallel for motor traffic. At the time of opening, it was the longest bridge in Sri Lanka with a length of 302 meters and a width of 10.4 meters.

Since then first road-rail in Sri Lanka was converted back to being a plain old railway bridge.

Also See

Map of  the Manampitiya Road-Rail Bridge

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)

The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Traveling Directions to Manampitiya Road-Rail Bridge

The modern town of Polonnaruwa is also known as New Town, and the other part of Polonnaruwa remains the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa.

Route from Colombo to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Kandy to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Through : Central Highway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo :230 km
Travel Time : 4.45 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Matale – Dambulla – Habarana
Distance : 140 km
Travel Time : 3.5 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google maps
Route from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Batticaloa to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Though : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance : 103 km
Travel Time : 2 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Though : Chenkaladi – Valachchena
Distance : 97 km
Travel Time : 2 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Route from Polonnaruwa to Manampitiya Road-Rail Bridge Route from Batticaloa to Manampitiya Road-Rail Bridge
Through : Kaduruwela
Distance : 12 km
Travel time : 15 mins
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Chenkaladi – Oddamavadi
Distance : 84 km
Travel time : 1.15 mins
Driving directions : see on google map


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