17-23 June 2016 #813

Future on track

Sylvia Chang/ China Daily Asia Weekly
FRONTIER POST: The Kerung-Rasuwa Gadi border bridge shows the contrast in infrastructure on the Chinese and Nepali sides.

Many Nepalis probably do not even know that Nepal has a Department of Railways. Set up a few years ago, it is now coming up to be an important government agency charged with surveying the alignment of the proposed East-West Railway and two cross-border railway lines linking Biratnagar and Janakpur to India. 

After years of inaction, the imminent arrival of the Qinghai-Xigatse railway to Kerung on the Nepal-Tibet border by 2020, and the dispatch of the first container train with Nepal-bound cargo from Lanzhou to Kerung last month, seem to have stirred everyone into action. The Indians, in particular, appear to be keen to revive the railway projects they want to be involved with, including the East-West Railway.

The Chinese decision to make Kerung the new trans-Himalayan gateway instead of Kodari appears to be linked to Rasuwa Gadi having a gentler gradient for track-laying. After the earthquake and Indian blockade, the Kerung-Rasuwa Gadi border is bustling. The Nepal government is expediting infrastructure on the Nepal side so it will be ready when the train arrives in four years.

The government is widening the Galchhi-Rasuwa Gadi Highway and building a multi-storey border office and dry port in Rasuwa. It is hoped that the road will ultimately pave the way for a railway corridor between India and China through Nepal. During his visit to Beijing in March, Prime Minister KP Oli urged China to help build a rail network. The China Railway Construction Corporation has approached the Nepal government to carry out a feasibility study for a train to link Rasuwa Gadi with Kathmandu, Pokhara and Lumbini, for which the Finance Minister announced a feasibility study in his budget speech last month. 

Mohan Basnet of the Inter-Modal Transport Development Board said: “The Rasuwa Gadi customs office, dry port, rail and all other projects are being built with a view that Nepal can be a trade transit point between India and China in future.”

Meanwhile, the Biratnagar and Janakpur rail projects will be the first of several cross-border train links at Kakadvitta, Bhairawa and Nepalganj to the Indian railway network. Rajeswar Man Singh of the Department of Railways told us: “The project was delayed by the blockade, but we have now begun building the railway embankments.” 

After a prolonged debate over whether the East-West railway should be built through Chitwan National Park, the Department has finally settled on an alternative route that would circumvent the sanctuary. 

Read also:

Over the hump, Dambar Krishna Shrestha

Trespassing into nature, Bhrikuti Rai and Sunir Pandey

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