Nepal has signed an MoU with India to prepare a detailed project report for the proposed $3.15 billion railway line linking Kathmandu with the Indian border town of Raxaul, a statement said on Friday.
This proposed rail line is seen as counter to China's bid to expand the railway upto Kathmandu.
The broad-gauge line will give the Nepali capital a direct connection with the Indian railway network, enabling non-stop train travel to all Indian cities.
Both sides signed the SOPs for start of passenger train services on the Jaynagar-Kurtha section and the MoU for final location survey of the proposed broad gauge railway line between Raxaul and Kathmandu, according to the statement issued by the Indian Embassy here.
The agreements were signed on Thursday during the Fifth Joint Working Group and the 7th Project Steering Committee meetings in New Delhi on October 6-7, to review implementation of ongoing cross-border railway links and overall bilateral cooperation in the railway sector.
On the Indian side, the JWG was led by the Railways Ministry's Executive Director, Traffic Transportation-Freight, Dr Manoj Singh, and the PSC by the External Affairs Ministry's Joint Secretary, DPA-III, Anurag Bhushan, and the Nepali side was led by Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Keshab Kumar Sharma, in both meetings.
On March 9, the Nepali Cabinet had given an in-principle approval to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport to sign an MoU with India to create a plan.
The Konkan Railways Corporation has already prepared a pre-feasibility study of the proposed broad-gauge railway project.
The train link to Raxaul, which will be 136 to 198 km long, is seen as New Delhi's attempt to counter Chinese influence in Nepal. According to the understanding, India will finish the detailed project report within 18 months of the commencement of the agreement, and Nepal will facilitate the process. The Indian government will bear the cost of preparing it.
Once this railway is constructed, goods can be transported directly to Kathmandu from India and third countries. Currently, shipments originating overseas are brought to the inland container depot in Birgunj by rail and transferred to Kathmandu and other locations by road.
The SOPs of Jaynagar-Kurtha railway provide the technical aspects of running passenger trains on the new section and will serve as a guiding document for early start of rail services in the upcoming cross-border railway links with Nepal. This construction of the Jaynagar-Kurtha railway line was funded by India.
Besides reaching out to these two understandings and agreements, both sides discussed the ongoing works of Jaynagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas, and Jogbani-Biratnagar broad gauge railway lines between India and Nepal, being developed with grant assistance from the Indian government.
Nepal and India are mulling at least five different cross-border railway lines between the two countries.
"The technical preparedness of the completed 34-km-long section of the railway line, from Jaynagar (India) to Kurtha (Nepal) for operationalisation of passenger train services was also reviewed. Nepali side also informed that necessary regulatory framework will be put in place to facilitate early operationalisation. For Kurtha to Bilajpura (17.25 km) section of the railway line, Nepal assured to provide necessary facilitation for completion of the work at the earliest," the statement added.
Both sides also agreed to expedite the work on completion of the 18.6-km-long Jogbani-Biratnagar rail link, and its early operationalisation.
During then Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli's state visit to India in April 2018, the two neighbours had agreed to construct a new electrified rail line with Indian financial support connecting Raxaul and Kathmandu.
As per the joint statement issued at that time, the objective of constructing the railway is to expand connectivity to enhance people-to-people linkages and promote economic growth and development.
In August 2018, the two sides exchanged an MoU to carry out a preliminary engineering-cum-traffic survey of the broad-gauge line. India had designated Konkan Railway Corporation to undertake the study.
As per the survey report, construction of the proposed railway will need an investment of $2.66 to $3.15 billion, in addition to land acquisition, taxes on imports of various technical and other materials.
The Indian side has proposed to build four lines to connect Raxaul with Kathmandu. The construction is expected to take five years after clearance of the land from the Nepal side.
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