Railways in Nepal with History, Research, Present Condition & Future Plan
Railways in Nepal with History, Present Condition & Future Plan: – Nepal is a small landlocked country situated in South Asia. It covers an area of 1,47,18 1 sq. km. It is bordered by India in the east, west, and south and also China in the north which are the countries having largest economies in the world. The government is committed to the endorsement of foreign investment by providing a unique opportunity for foreign direct investment in the country. According to United Nations, Nepal is the least developed country. So, the goal is to rise to the present status by 2022. To attain these targets, the requirement of an economic growth rate is 7–8% and investment in infrastructure are USD 13–18 billion by 2020. The Population of Nepal is 26,494,504. A tourist from all around the world comes to Nepal for rafting in these dangerous rivers.
There are also many lakes in Nepal. National and international tourists spend a lot of money on various stuff such as mountain climbing, trekking, Bunjee Jumping and many of others. The strong way of earning for the country is tourism. It is one of the biggest and fastest growing industries in the world. It provides employment to many Nepalese people. In the fiscal year 206364, 1.2% of total GDP of Nepal was contributed by tourism. The tourism has contributed the rise in GDP with time. In 2014, 1.97 of country GDP was contributed by tourism. For the promotion of tourism, the main problem is lack of transportation in a tourist area. So, for the easiness and promoting the earning of the country by tourism and export/ import, transportation plays an important role.
Transportation simplifies the movement of people and goods to the location of services and facilities. It benefits the people by creating jobs, commercial opportunities, and industrial hubs. For many years, the transportation sector of Nepal is greatly in need of development. But the geographical location of Nepal creates obstructs in the development of the transportation sector. Nepal is a land-locked country and the nearest outlet to the sea is Kolkata, India, which is more than a thousand km away. Road transport and aviation are the most popular of very few modes of transportation in Nepal due to the difficult terrain. Nowadays, ropeways are developing a tourist attraction rather than means of transportation. The transport sector of Nepal has grown at an average rate of 6.9 % in the span of five years. The development of transport infrastructure promotes the economic growth of people as well provides and promotes employment.
The total road network of the country is 80,078 km. Out of 75 districts, only 67 district head quarter’s roads are linked with all-weather roads. Another way of transportation is airways. The country has 1 international airport and 56 domestic airports. But, airway hasn’t developed completely due to difficult locations of destiny. Over the next five years, the government hopes to mobilize US$ 8.2 billion for road infrastructure, rail connectivity, and transport sector management. Nepal must promote itself as a profitable transit destination for goods coming from India, connecting India and China. Due to the trade between India and China, this could attract as much as US$ 70.25 billion per year of business through Nepal.
So, for the benefits of Nepal, the transportation of country must be developed. The other means of transportation is Railways. The railway line of Nepal has the total length of 57 km out of which only 5 km is currently operating. If the government can develop the railway in Nepal, then it won’t take time for this small country to be developed. For a landlocked country like Nepal, a rail network because of its low cost of operation should be of prime importance, both for domestic and international routes. In these present days, the present urban transport system is not appropriable inefficient and environmentally unfriendly. Kathmandu valley, that includes the capital city as well as other emerging cities, has a population of about 4 million and even more commuters and Kathmandu desperately needs to develop sustainable mass transit systems to address the needs for increased mobility and to reduce fuel dependence for which Railway is one of the projects is also been planned.
The railway is the most important way of transportation in the development forward steeping countries. By the help of Railways, we can export and import the goods easily by connecting with neighboring countries. People can reach their destinations in short period of time. It will obviously promote tourism and employment opportunity. Railway has remained the least-explored means of transportation in Nepal through its development dates back to the 1920s. The Raxaul-Amlekhagunj of length 39 kilometers and Jayanagar-Janakpur-Bijalpura, two short distance 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge railways were built by British in 1927. Currently, Nepal Railway Company is dedicated to constructing 53 kilometers of railway track — 32 km from Jaynagar in India to Janakpur in Nepal and 21 km from Janakpur to Bijalapur.
Nepal Railways Corporation;
The Nepal Railways Corporation Ltd. is the corporation which is owned by the Nepalese Government which maintains and operates two railway lines which are Raxaul-Sirsiya line and the Jainagar-Janakpur line.The line from Raxaul in India to Sirsiya is 6KM in length which acts as Dry Port near Birganj in Nepal which is primarily used for freight transport. And, the line from Jaynagar in India to Janakpur in Nepal is 5 Km in length which is primarily used for passenger transport.
History of Nepal Railway Corporation;
During the Rana regime, the Raxaul-Amlekhagunj section of Nepal Government Railway was introduced in Nepal. It was built as a 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge railway. In 1927, 9 KM long railway was built by British which allowed people from different areas of the country to reach Amlekhganj and to get Lorries to Bhimphedi and from Bhimpedi, people have to reach Kathmandu on foot. The railway was later closed down.
In 1998, two ZDM-5 diesel locomotives were donated by Indian Railway to Nepal Railways. In 2004, the Kolkata – Raxaul – Sirsiya broad gauge line started operations as an Inland Port.
Also, The Jayanagar-Janakpur Line was built as 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge railway which was also introduced during the Rana period. The Jayanagar- Janakpur-Bijalpura line is under the gauge conversion to 1,676 mm with an extension to Bardibas in the current days. By the Indian railways, the length of 1676 Km with 1,000 mm meter guage railway track from Raxaul was converted to 1,676 mm for the connection to Sirsiya Birgunj. In the year 2005, the railway fully came in operation. Until 2014, the Nepal Railway lines used 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) gauge lines until 2014. But in the year 2014, the Nepal Railway was closed down so that the Nepal Railway Corporation could upgrade the track by the financial aid of Indian railways.
First Railway in Nepal
The first railway in Nepal was the Nepal Government Railway. It was established in The railway linked Amlekhganj with Raxaul across the border in India in the south. The railway was 47 km long with 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge. In 1923, A short narrow gauge railway was built by J. V. Collier of Indian Forest Service for the transportation of Nepalese timber to India. Rana Prime minister assigned Collier to manage the forest department in Nepal. To construct the light railway from the north border to Amlekhgani, Martin and Co. of Kolkata conducted the survey in 1924.
In March 1926, the construction of railway began In 16th February 1927, the Nepal Government Railway was commenced. The narrow gauge railway used a track gauge of 2 ft 6.The railway was regulated by seven steam locomotives, 82 wagons, and 12 coaches. The Amlekhganj-Raxaul railway was the only route indirectly connecting the capital Kathmandu with India until the highway was built. The travelers had to journey over the hills on foot and by lorry, they reached to Amlekhganj to take the train to India. Later, in 1965, the Tribhuvan Highway was built linking Kathmandu with Amlekhganj. In first Nepali movie ‘Aama’, the scene of the Gorkha soldier returning to home from a train was shot in Nepal Government Railway.
But, The Nepal Government Railway was closed in 1965 after the construction of Tribhuvan Highway. An engineering consultancy company named as RITES founded by Government of India has conducted preliminary surveys for the following broad gauge lines such as;
- New Jalpaiguri (India) to Kakarbhitta (Nepal)
- Jogbani (India) to Biratnagar (Nepal)
- Nautanwa (India) to Bhairahawa (Nepal)
- Nepalganj Road (India) to Nepalganj (Nepal)
Railway stations in Nepal list the various railway stations in Nepal. In Nepal, there are insufficient railways although new railways are planned. A number of branch lines of Indian Railways come close to the border with Nepal, but in Nepal, only the branch line from Jaynagar goes.
The existing railways of Nepal are;
- Khajuri, Khajuri Chanha
- Mahinathpur, Thadi Jhijha
- Shaheed Sarojnagar, Duhabi
- Baidehee, Itaharwa
- Perbaha, Deuri Parwaha
- Janakpur, Janakpur
Bijalpura Railway Station, Bijalpura, was closed due to a washed away bridge.
The various events related to Railways are;
- In 1924, Martin’s of Kolkata started the laid down of the Metre Guage track of Raxaul – Birgunj – Amlekhgunj.
- In 1927, Raxaul – Birgunj – Amlekhgunj railway track started its operations for transport.
- In 1937, Jayanagar – Janakpur Narrow Gauge Track commenced its operation for public transport under the name Janakpur Railways but it was lately renamed to Nepal Railways
- .In 1990, Raxaul – Birgunj -Amlekhgunj Track was finally closed.
- In 1994: 5 ZDM-5 diesel locomotives and 6 8-coach NG rakes from SER’s Nagpur division has been passes to Nepal Railways for operations in Jaynagar – Janakpur Track.
- In 1998: 2 ZDM-5 diesel locomotives were given to Nepal Railways.
- In 2004: Kolkata – Raxaul – Sirsiya Broad Gauge commenced its operations as an Inland Port.
- In 2007: The proposal for constructing the entire route of 174 Km from Birgunj to Kathmandu was submitted by Pipavav Rail corporation but, no progress was made so far.
- In 2008 : Three other proposals for rail connectivity to Nepal were deliberated and preliminary engineering surveys had done, New Jalpaiguri (India) to Kakrabitta (Nepal) via Panitanki of length 46.3 km, Nepalganj Road (India) to Nepalganj (Nepal) of length 12.1 km and Nautanwa (India) to Bhairahawa (Nepal) of length 15.3 km.
- In 2011: In Kathmandu valley, Metro trains were proposed and the viability studies are to be carried out as declared in the Budget session.
- In August 2012, When a locomotive ran away after the driver alighted for refreshment then a serious accident took place. The unmanned locomotive ran on the track from Jaynagar to Janakpur at speeds with far exceeding the restrictions on the line. At Janakpur, staff diverted the light engine onto a neglected slither, on which they had placed weighty obstructions and the engine was stopped and no-one was injured.
Future Plans for railways in Nepal;
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Government of Nepal and the Ministry of Railways, Government of India has also entered into a Rail Services Agreement in 2004 for movement of goods (containers and break-bulk cargo) in transit between Kolkata/Haldia and Birgunj in Nepal. This agreement has recently been extended bilateral trade and containerized services are expected to commence shortly. With regard to break-bulk cargo, some customs related issues still remain to be resolved.
In order to meet the growing passenger and freight transport demand, Government of Nepal has long felt the necessity of development of railway as an alternative land transport mode for faster and cheaper movement of freight and passenger traffic. In pursuance to the objective, consultants have completed the Detailed Project Report for constructing proposed new Railway lines in Nepal which include Bardibas- Simara, Simara – Tamsariya and Tamsariya – Butwal of Mechi- Mahakali Railway (945 km). Recently the feasibility study of Nijgadh – Hetauda – Bharatpur (alternative route to Simara – Tamsariya) has been completed. Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Government of Nepal hence plans to conduct Feasibility Study of Kathmandu – Birgunj Electrified Railway Line with an appropriate design speed rail system. The budget for this work has already been allocated in this F.Y. 2073/074.
Department of Railways on behalf of Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Government of Nepal, invites eligible consultants to indicate their interest in providing the services. Consultants may associate to enhance their qualifications and are encouraged to make an association with the local Nepalese Consultants. Multiple associations of Nepalese consultant with international consultants will not be accepted.
In recent years, Nepal government has given priority for nation-wide electric railway network. Feasibility study for Mechi-Mahakali and Kathmandu Pokhara routes have already been completed (total 1318 Km). The total estimated cost for these routes is US$ 6.54 billion. Detailed project report (DPR) for Berdibas-Simara Section of Mechi-Mahakali route has already been completed while DPR for other sections is under preparation. By the importance of railways in carrying freight and passengers, Nepal has embarked on a plan to construct railway line that runs the entire length of Nepal, from east to west. Currently, Jainagar- Janakpur- Bardibas rail link is being constructed.
The plan to connect to India from 6 different locations of Nepal through Electric Railway of approx. 113 km will significantly improve trade between two countries as well as in the South Asian Region. It is expected that the project to establish an electric railway in six different locations will be realized in the form of one or more PPPs. The Lumbini-Hetauda-Janakpur section is supposed to be the first Future expansion East-West Railway line in Nepal. These two entry points will be beneficial for tourists. And also, they are among the most economical routes of trade with India and overseas. The first dry port is Birgunj dry port in Nepal to be connected by broad gauge link. Biratnagar may be the second dry port and Mahendranagar may get a similar link.
The plan of railway to link Nepal includes;
- 16 km railway track from Naxalbari to Kankarvitta
- 15 km track of railway from Jogbani to Biratnagar
- Nepalganj Road
- Nautanwa to Bhairahawa
- New Jalpaiguri (Siliguri) to Kankarbhitta
- Jogbani to Biratnagar extension under survey in 2008.
- Bijalpura with extension to Bardibas (Nepal).
- Madhubani to Jaynagar
The rail infrastructure in the southern region needs to be strengthened and increased so that the aspirations of the people in that area can be met in a significant manner. Railways believe that this will play a major role in better integration with the mainstream.
The major objectives of railways vision for Nepal are as under.
(i) Connectivity to various parts of Country.
(ii) Strengthening international borders
(iii) Augmentation of network capacity for handling the growth of traffic in future.
(iv) Expansion of network to unconnected areas of the region
(v) Improving trade and connectivity with neighboring countries.
In Nepal, there is Railway act 1963, which ensures prevailing Nepal laws related to railways. It covers the main areas such as;
- Rules on the operation of trains
- Rules on qualifications for train locomotive operators
- Rules related to crimes and punishments relating to railways
- Fares to be charged while traveling or transporting goods by train.
Author: Poonam Neupane