Cross border travel will cost a mere 70 Nepali rupees, or less than 50 Indian rupees over a 36 km stretch. But this will have to wait until Nepal’s parliament passes a law to establish the Nepal railway corporation.
By Laxmi Khanal
The virtual inauguration of Nepal railway’s service by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sher Bahadur Deuba due later this month has run into rough weather – at least for the time being.
Successful test runs for the railway line between Jayanagar in India and Kurtha in Nepal have been on since 13 February. The daily dry runs have been accompanied by rising hopes by people eager to commute the route. The railway company has yet to confirm when the service will open to public.
However, there is a spanner in the works as the ordinance to be placed before Nepal’s parliament to allow for an operational railway system has lapsed. The ordinance, according to the rule book of Nepal’s parliament, was valid for 60 days. The Nepal railway company needs a law in sanctioned by the country’s constitution providing for it.
Renukumari Yadav, Nepal’s minister for physical infrastructure and transport had put in the ordinance on 30 November 2021. She had then argued that any delay to operationalise the train’s commercial service would put the project in jeopardy.
The Nepal railway company has collaborated with Indian railway’s Konkan railway cooperation for the establishment of the service that will benefit people from both sides of the border. Konkan railway corporation has supplied two diesel locomotives to chug the trains.
Nepal, on its part, bought two train sets for 846.5 million Nepali rupees in 2020. The trains were kept wrapped under sheets of tarpaulin.
The twice-daily service will service about 5,000 passenger trips over a stretch of 36 kilometres between the two countries for less than 50 Indian rupees (70 Nepali rupees) over 90 mintues with eight stations enroute. A flight ticket from Janakpur to Kathmandu comes for about 25-times that price.
The railway is not entirely new to the people of Nepal’s plains – it replaces an earlier, extremely crowded but popular, narrow gauge train service. The tracks were laid in 1927 to carry timber from the then-Himalayan kingdom. The route includes the temple town of Janakpur that has a special mythological significance and the train could be a boon for Indian pilgrims flocking there.
Besides the nostalgia it has evoked, the new railway service has also had its share of controversies, when last year, the Sher Bahadu Deuba government sacked the railway company’s general manager and over a 100 staff hired by his predecessor’s government.
Image: Department of Railways, Government of Nepal