John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH) renewed its 16-year public private partnership with Sri Lanka Railways for the refurbishment and maintenance of the Slave Island Railway Station. A renewal Agreement in this regard was signed on 29th July 2019 between General Manager, Sri Lanka Railways, Mr. M.J. D. Fernando, and JKH represented by Mr. Gihan Cooray, Deputy Chairman and Group Finance Director and Ms. Nadija Tambiah, Secretaries.
Situated in the hub of commercial activity, the 1878 Slave Island Railway Station, also known as Slave Island Railway Station, stands on Justice Akbar Mawatha as one of the oldest legacies of Sri Lanka’s British heritage.
Continuing to boast its cast-iron corrugated roofs and wide verandahs enabling greater airflow typical of the era as well as stylish arches, intricate woodwork, neo-modern metal installations and the signature mixing of iron and stone as a striking example of refined technology, the Railway Station remains an emblem of Victorian art.
Slave Island got its name during the British occupation and originates from the Portuguese and Dutch period of administration when slaves, mostly African, were brought here. Since then, the area has evolved into a commercial locale with business establishments, hotels and eating houses, making it a central Railway Station location. Premises of JKH subsidiary, Ceylon Cold Stores PLC, and other old warehouses of the 19th century were in its immediate exterior. A century later, the JKH Head Office complex too came up on the parallel street known as Glennie Street whilst the 21st century has seen the area become a hub of development.
In 2002, JKH first stepped into refurbish and maintain the Slave Island Railway Station, while preserving its colonial architectural value. Initiated as a key community development venture in the immediate neighbourhood, the project aimed at restoring the railway station to its original splendour while enabling modern facilities to compliment the age-old architecture by refurbishing and modernizing the level crossing, bridge and other amenities within the station. Towards enabling the station to be clean and user friendly for the thousands of commuters who use it, JKH funds daily maintenance of the station. Project work – including all repairs and routine maintenance of the building and service areas, maintenance and greening of the garden, reconstruction of the overhead bridge with additional roofs to the two sides, repairing and painting of benches and interior beautification, refurbishment of the ceiling at the main entrance / ticket counter – is sponsored and implemented by John Keells Property under the guidance of Sri Lanka Railways and in collaboration with John Keells Foundation. It was reported that the Slave Island Railway project benefitted 703,514 commuters during the 2018/19 financial year.
Although JKH Head Office complex was relocated to Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha in 2013 the Group continues to have close proximity to the Slave Island Railway Station via Cinnamon Life, the first premier real estate development of its kind in Sri Lanka. A “city within a city”, this iconic project will on completion redefine Colombo’s skyline whilst making its mark as Colombo’s lifestyle capital with its proposed 800 roomed five-star Cinnamon Hotel, shopping mall, convention centre, state-of-the-art 30 storey office tower, multi-purpose entertainment venues, restaurants and 427 premium residential apartments.
John Keells Foundation is the CSR entity of John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH), a Sri Lankan company, which is also the country’s largest listed conglomerate in the Colombo Stock Exchange, operating over 70 companies in 7 diverse industry sectors. JKH provides employment to over 13,000 persons and has been ranked as Sri Lanka’s ‘Most Respected Entity’ for 13 years. Whilst being a full member of the World Economic Forum and a Member of the UN Global Compact, JKH drives its vision of “empowering the nation for tomorrow”, through the John Keells Foundation, which works in the six focus areas of Education, Health, Livelihood Development, Arts & Culture, Environment and Disaster Relief.