Cross-border railways to hasten Nepal’s development pace

By Modnath Dhakal

trainKathmandu, Aug. 4: Nepal is waiting to use multiple cargo entry points with railway connectivity to ease its international trade and get alternative routes to other Indian sea ports like Dhamra in Odisha and Mundra in Gujrat which are the facilities the country had asked the southern neighbour to provide. Nepal is allowed to use Kolkata, Haldia and Bishakhapattanam ports in India so far. 

Indian Special Secretary (Logistics) at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry N. Sivasailam last week said that India was positive for allowing Nepali importers to change the freight destination points at the Nepal-India border.
While the country eyes large railway projects as one of the key elements for the rapid industrial and economic development, its aspirations are connected with the cross-border railways with India and China.
Since Nepal’s two-third trade happens with India which is also the largest export market, and more than 95 per cent goods move through the southern border points, the government wants to expedite the development of cross-border railways which seems to be reciprocated by the southern neighbour.
Indian Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri has recently said that Nepal-India cross-border railway and inland waterway projects were in the priority and they would witness progress soon.
Jayanagar-Janakpur-Bardibas, Jogbani-Biratnagar, Jalpaigudi-Kakarbhitta, Nautanawa-Bhairahawa and Rupaidiha-Nepalgunj are the five cross-border railway projects. Nepal and India had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for these projects in 2010.
The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT) said that the Jayanagar-Janakpur-Kurtha railway line (35 km) was completed and would come into operation by October this year while train service would be started at the 17 km long Kurtha-Bijalpura extension of the same track by March 2020.
The Jayanagar-Janakpur-Bijalpura railway will be expanded up to Nijgadh of Bara via Bardibas of Mahottari district. The construction is completed at Bardibas-Lalbandi section (30 km) and 40 km long Lalbandi-Nijgadh will be completed in 2.5 years from now.
Likewise, Bathnaha-Birathagar Railway has witnessed more than 50 per cent progress with 10 km of the total 18 km long track completed. The DoR is set to operate railway service in this track in the current fiscal year 2019/20.
Feasibility of Raxaul-Kathmandu Railway completed
The Ministry has also completed the feasibility report of the Raxaul-Kathmandu Railway (135 km) and Kathmandu-Rasuwagadhi (72 km). The Raxaul-Kathmandu Railway line will come up to Chobhar Dry Port – under construction now – and will connect Birgunj, Jitpur and Nijgadh. The 140 km long track will have 50 km long tunnel.
Similarly, Kathmandu-Rasuwagadhi Railway will be 72.25 km long and about 98 per cent of the track would either be in bridges or tunnels. The estimated cost of this ambitious project is Rs. 257 billion.
“The government has completed the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of different projects with 421 km length,” said Balram

Mishra, Director General of the Department of Railways (DoR).
He said that the study for the DPR of Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu Railway and Birgunj-Kathmandu Railway would be initiated in the near future with the support from the India government.

Land Procurement Challenge
Mishra said that the land acquisition for the railway line and station was meeting multiple glitches at various locations. Likewise, there is delay in getting approval to cut down trees in the forest area, and to manage river-based construction materials.
“We have been directed to procure land at the government-set rate but it is impossible to buy land at that price. However, we have proposed the average of bank transaction of the land, its selling rate and rate of land revenue as the procurement price,” said Mishra.

Train in three months
The DoR is in the process of procuring two DEMU (Diesel Electric Multiple Unit) train sets from the Konkan Railway Corporation Limited, an Indian government enterprise, at the cost of Rs. 846.5 million.
However, it had missed the deadlines to bring the trains in Nepal. Earlier the DoR had said that the locomotives would arrive in Nepal by mid-May but due to delay in communication and other technical requirements, they will come after about 3 months.
The trains will have 5 to 10 bogies with an engine at the front and back.
According to Mishra, the DoR is undergoing through human resources shortage.
While most of the officials and technicians at the DoR were transferred from the Department of Roads, the former is planning to revive the erstwhile Nepal Railway Company (NRC) and use it as the human resource development centre.
NRC was a government agency that operated Janakpur-Jayanagar Railway service in the past and is unfunctional since 2014.

Railway Timeline
1927: British built first railway in the country to connect Amlekhgunj of Nepal with Raxaul in India
1937: Jayanagar-Janakpur Railways constructed
1965: Raxaul-Amlekhgunj Railway closed
2001: Janakpur-Bijalpura Railway service closed
2005: Indian Railways was connected to Sirsiya Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Birgunj
2008: Establishment of East-West Electrified Railway Project
2009: Feasibility of Mechi-Mahakali Railway (945 km), Kathmandu-Pokhara Railway (187 km) and Bharatpur-Aanbukhaireni Railway (72.7 km)
2010: MoU signed with India for cross-border railway development
2011: Establishment of Department of Railway
2018: MoU signed with China on cooperation in railway projects.
MoU signed with India on preliminary survey of Kathmandu-Raxaul Railway
Janakpur-Jayanagar-Kurtha Railway line constructed
2019: Government decides to buy 2 DEMU train from India 

Timeline

1927: British built Raxaul-Amlekhgunj railways
1937: Jayanagar-Janakpur railways
1965: Raxaul-Amlekhgunj railways closed
2005: Railways connected to Sirsiya ICD
2008: East-West Electrified Railway Project
2010: MoU with India for cross-border railways
2018: MoU with China and India on railway cooperation
2018: Janakpur-Jayanagar-Kurtha Railway line constructed
2019: Government decides to buy 2 DEMU trains from India 

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