The train is under construction in Chennai, India. (Photo: Khabarhub)
KATHMANDU: With more than 9 decades since the first railway was built by the British in 1927 in Nepal, the country will now see its own passenger train coming from India’s Chennai to Janakpur from mid-February this year.
This, as authorities claim, will end the snail-paced development of the railway in the country bringing in more hopes.
The train under construction at the Integral Coach Factory (Sawari Dibba Karkhana) of Chennai, India is scheduled to arrive in Nepal by mid-February. “The second train will arrive a month later, that is on mid-March,” Balaram Mishra, the Director-General of Department of Railways told Khabarhub.
Informing that the government of Nepal has already purchased a train for the purpose nearly 8 months back, Mishra said, “The government has bought two trains worth Rs 425 million each.”
Challenges in human resource management
Despite the department’s claim to run the train service by mid-February, the government is yet to fulfill human resources for the purpose.
According to the bill proposed to regulate railway transport, a train driver and co-driver — considered key persons in the train — are required to have at least a secondary-level education (10+2) to be eligible for the post.
Similarly, Railway Act 2019 hails that to be eligible for the post of train-driver, a candidate should have the work experience as a co-driver for at least 5 years. Ironically, as the first passenger train is scheduled to start in February, the government is yet to find a qualified driver and others.
“The government is currently facing the challenge of recruiting qualified and experienced people for railway service as there is the scarcity of such manpower in Nepal,” says Aman Chitrakar, the spokesperson of the Department and a senior division engineer.
Indian manpower can be hired on a contract
“A Janakpur-Jayanagar train set has 5 coaches in it, which has the capacity of carrying 1,000 people, including standing passengers,” says Chitrakar, adding, “We need at least 200 people for its smooth regulation.”
Indian railway department arranges a one-year professional training to an engineer once s/he is recruited in the service prior to deploying the person in the field.
However, spokesperson Chitrakar says that there is no such environment here, at least at the moment. “As the government has not been able to send any technician for training outside the country, we are planning to hire Indian manpower on a contract basis for the time being,” he says.
14 billion spent on railway transport
Meanwhile, preparations are on a swing to launch the East-West railway, Nepal-India Cross border railway, and Nepal-China railways.
Nepal and India have already railway transportation since 1927. Not kept as the primary means of transportation, the project itself got shadowed quite long leading to a snail-paced freight service to a complete halt some 5 years ago.
Lately, with the initiation from the Government of Nepal, the railway dream seems to grab the attention.
Following Beijing’s decision to extend its railway network up to Kathmandu in Nepal, New Delhi had proposed the construction of new railway links during Prime Minister K P Oli’s recent visit to the southern neighbor. Currently, both India and China are, in a way, competing to extend their support for railway transport in Nepal.
With the financial aid from India and China, the Nepal government has been executing the process related to land acquisition, clearing the structures, and utility shifting, among others.
The government of Nepal had allocated Rs 4 billion in the last fiscal year for the same — that is an increase by Rs 7.7 billion this fiscal year. Since the initiation of this project, a total of Rs 14 billion have been spent so far.
Out of 1000 KM East-West railway, 70km in Civil Box now
Out of the total 1000-kilometer East-West railway, the work on civil box is going on in 70 kilometers from Bardibas in the east to Nijgadh in the west. According to the Department, the Nepal government has provided the fund for it.
“Although the railway alignment was designed to pass through Parsa and Chitwan National Park, considering the ecological impacts of it, the alternate route is sought as the primary one,” spokesperson Chitrakar said.
Consultants from India, China, and South Korea are jointly working on the detailed project report (DPR) of Nijgadh-Hetauda- Bharatpur section of the road. The estimated length of the east-west railway is 1,045 kilometers.
“Land acquisition is making the task much complicated,” says spokesperson Chitrakar, adding, “Out of the 69 kilometers lying on Jayanagar-Bardibas route, land acquisition of 52 kilometers lying between Inaruwa to Bijalpura has been completed as of now. We are still striving for the acquisition of 17 kilometers more land.”
Nepal-India Cross-border railway: Construction in progress only in two borders
Both India and Nepal have plans to construct five cross-border railway links, including one to connect Raxaul to Kathmandu. Jalpaiguri-Kakarbhitta 46km, Bathanah (India)-to Kattari 18km, Jayanagar (India)-Bardibas 69km, Nautanwah (India)-Bhairahawa 12km and Rupaidiya (India)-Kohalpur 15 km are the five proposed cross-border railways meant to facilitate Nepal’s trade with India and third countries.
Out of these five points, the construction work is being continued on the Jayanagar-Bardibas and Nautanhawa-Bhairahawa points.
Spokesperson Chitrakar hails the cause of the work being confined to two points alone to the difficulties in land-procurement. “Due to various problems especially land acquisition, the railway construction work is confined to Jayanagar-Bardibas to Nautanwa-Bhairahawa section only,” Chitrakar told Khabarhub.
1927: British built the 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 a preliminary survey of Kathmandu-Raxaul Railway
Janakpur-Jayanagar-Kurtha Railway line constructed
2019: Government decides to buy 2 DEMU train from India
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
2020: Nepal govt. purchases two trains (Train service to resume soon, a passenger train on Janakpur-Jayanagar-Kurtha route by March)