Surprise inclusion in budget 2016-17Feasibility study of the Kathmandu-Birgunj railway project has been a surprise inclusion in the budget for 2016-17 given the plan “had never been officially discussed”.
Feasibility study of the Kathmandu-Birgunj railway project has been a surprise inclusion in the budget for 2016-17 given the plan “had never been officially discussed”.
Also, the plan has not been incorporated in the five-year strategic plan of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport unveiled a month ahead of the budget presentation.
Although 60 percent of Nepal’s international trade takes place through the Birgunj customs point, direct railway link between Kathmandu and Birgunj has been overlooked.
“Initially, it was thought the Kathmandu-Birgunj railway would hurt the Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track Project,” said Ananta Acharya, director general of Department of Railway. “We, however, had been insisting informally this railway should be built to sustain a planned railway system.”
The government has announced to develop the Fast Track project on its own.
A feasibility study of Mechi-Mahakali Electric Railway and Kathmandu-Pokhara Electric Railway carried out by RITES (India) in 2012 does not include the Birgunj-Kathmandu route. However, there are plans to connect Tamasariya to Abu-Khaireni—a junction of the Kathmandu-Pokhara railway.
“As Kathmandu is the largest consumption centre and the biggest passenger source, not linking Kathmandu with the East-West railway could be disaster,” said Acharya.
The Kathmandu Valley accounts for 23.4 percent of the national economy, according to Economic Survey 2014-15.
Amid India expressing concerns over planned expansion of China railway to Kathmandu, Pokhara and Lumbini, an official of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport said the Kathmandu-Birgunj railway could appease the southern neighbour. “The railway, if built, will help create a strategic balance between the two neighbours,” said the official.
The budget has announced concluding the detailed project report of the Rasuwgadhi-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini railway in the next two years.
Following the budgetary announcement, Department of Railway has planned to initiate survey works for the Kathmandu-Birgunj electric railway. “We are considering connecting Kathmandu and Birgunj through Nijgadh,” said Acharya.
The government plans to conclude detailed project report of 135km Nijgadh-Hetauda-Bharatpur section of East-West Highway within a year. “We are also considering another railway section from Nijgadh to Kathmandu,” said Acharya.