India on Friday handed over the Jaynagar-Kurtha cross-border rail link, built with its assistance, to the Nepal government, paving the way for early resumption of railway links between the two South Asian nations.
Indian Ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Nepal's Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, Renu Kumari Yadav, were present on the occasion.
The executing agency for the project, IRCON International Ltd (on behalf of the India government) handed over the assets of the section to the Nepal Railway Company Limited during the event.
To operate the railway line, Nepal had brought two brand new train sets from India in 2020 September but due to Covid pandemic and other logistic issues, the two sides had failed to operate the railway line.
Dubbed Janaki Rail, the service has five coaches and can carry 1,000 passengers, sitting and standing, at a time. The train, with a maximum speed of 110 km per hour, was procured at Rs 850 million from India.
These were the Himalayan country's first broad-gauge trains, a new avatar of the historic Janakpur-Jaynagar railway between Nepal and India which was once a major means of border crossing for citizens from both sides. First built as a cargo line to carry timber from Nepal to India in 1937, the 35 km railway from Janakpur in Nepal to Jaynagar in Bihar was a lifeline for people in Janakpur.
People who had seen the colonial-era train chugging along the Nepal-India narrow gauge track were excited to see Nepal's first modern train. The train came but there was a wait for the final operation to link the historic and religiously rich city of Nepal, Janakpur - considered the birthplace of Sita, the consort of Lord Rama, with India.
Under the Indian grant assistance, the gauge conversion of a 36 km narrow gauge section into broad gauge, from Jaynagar in India to Kurtha in Nepal, has now been completed. This 36 km Jaynagar-Kurtha section is part of the 68.72 km Jaynagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas rail link being built under the grant assistance of (Nepali) Rs 8.77 billion, according to the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.
This section was earlier a narrow gauge rail link between Jayanagar and Bijalpura. There are a total of 8 stations and halts on the Jaynagar-Kurtha section, which include Janakpur, said the embassy.
In Nepal, the railway is one of those many things promised by governments that stir up emotions among people and inspire hope. After K.P. Sharma Oli came to power in 2018, connecting Nepal with both its immediate neighbours India and China by trains was his common refrain. When the train arrived last year, the Oli government boasted it as one of its biggest achievements.
Once operationalised, this would be the first broad gauge cross-border rail link between India and Nepal, and would further boost trade and commerce activities as well as people-to-people linkages between the two countries, the embassy said in a statement.
"Cross-border rail linkages are an important facet of India-Nepal Development cooperation, which include Jaynagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas rail link and Jogbani-Biratnagar (18.6 km) rail link, both being constructed under Government of India grant assistance," said the Indian Embassy.
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