Impatience growing as Nepal Railways delays commercial launchThe 36-km line connects Kurtha in Nepal with Jayanagar in India, the new avatar of the legendary Janakpur railway.
Excitement reached fever pitch when Nepal Railways announced that the new Kurtha-Jayanagar train would begin test runs after being kept wrapped in tarpaulin for one and a half years.
And so on February 13, the trials started. But euphoria soon turned to despair as the test runs have been going on daily, but there is no sign of when commercial service will begin.
Every day at 10 am, the empty train pulls into Kurtha station in Dhanusha, and returns to Jayanagar at 1 pm. Hundreds of people stand beside the railway track to gawk at the passengerless train rattling back and forth.
"We have been watching the train coming and going every day. But we are not allowed to board it," said Kamlesh Mandal, a local from the Mills Area in Janakpur. "It looks like the carriages are comfortable and modern. We are eager to travel on the train, but we can't."
The 36-km-long railway connects Kurtha in Nepal with Jayanagar in India. Locals have been complaining at the railway authority's decision to delay the commercial launch.
State-owned Nepal Railways has said that it has completed the trial run successfully, but it has not informed the people when they will get an opportunity to travel on it.
"We are all prepared for the commercial launch," said Niranjan Jha, general manager of Nepal Railways. "The trial run has been completed with success."
But Jha said they were waiting for the announcement of the inauguration date for the commercial launch. According to officials, the prime ministers of Nepal and India are scheduled to launch the railway service jointly.
"But due to the busy schedules of both prime ministers, people have not been able to travel on the modern train," officials said.
The railway has been built with the assistance of the government of India.
According to Jha, they plan to run two services daily in the first phase. The twice daily service will serve at least 5,000 travellers.
The cross-border train journey from Kurtha to Jayanagar will last 1 hour 30 minutes.
A general coach ticket will cost Rs70. According to officials, a ticket on a coach with air-conditioning will cost Rs300.
On May 10, 2019, the Department of Railways signed an agreement with India’s Konkan Railways Corporation to supply two diesel-electric multiple unit train sets to operate passenger services from Kurtha in Janakpur to Jayanagar in India.
On September 18, 2020, two brand new train sets arrived at Janakpur station amid much fanfare. Nepal had bought them at a cost of Rs846.5 million. But as their operation was delayed, both trains were kept parked on the track covered by tarps.
After the formation of the Sher Bahadur Deuba government in July last year, the railway company's general manager Guru Prasad Bhattarai and around 150 staffers hired by the erstwhile KP Oli-led government were removed.
The railway is the country’s first broad gauge rail line, the new avatar of the historic Janakpur-Jayanagar service between Nepal and India which was once a major means of border crossing for citizens of both countries.
It was originally built as a cargo line to carry timber from Nepal to India in 1937. After the narrow gauge track was dismantled, a new broad gauge track was laid with the assistance of India. The project was completed in late 2019.