Raxaul-Kathmandu rail survey report is ready, Indian officials sayReport was submitted to Kathmandu about a month ago but Nepal railway official says he has not seen it
Amid talks about cross-border railway connectivity between Nepal and China, India has finalised the “pre-engineering and traffic survey report” of Raxaul-Kathmandu railway.
Sources in the Indian government said India has already submitted the pre-feasibility study report to Nepal.
“The report was submitted to Nepal government around a month ago,” an official told the Post on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media.
The detailed project report of the railway that will connect Raxaul in Bihar to Kathmandu will be prepared based on the survey report.
The report was prepared by Konkan Railway Corporation Limited, owned by the Indian government, in eight months.
An agreement for the survey was signed between Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during the fourth BIMSTEC summit held in Kathmandu on August 30-31, 2018.
The report has detailed the total length, alignment and other technical aspects of the rail network, according to the source.
The report has suggested two alternatives. First, the total length of the railway tracks will be 200 kilometres and the gradient will be of one percent — the same as the Indian rail network. As the gradient is low, the total length has increased. The second alternative has been forwarded with the gradient at 1.5 percent, which will mean the total length will be 135 kilometres.
The length of the underground tunnel, however, will remain the same regardless of which gradient is chosen. The survey has suggested construction of 40-50 kilometre underground tunnels. According to sources, even as the report has forwarded two alternatives, the one with shorter route is likely to be approved.
Balram Mishra, director general at the Department of Railways, said he had heard about the Indian side submitting the survey report. “But since I am yet to see it, I can’t say anything about it right now,” he said. “We have heard that the report has been submitted to our Foreign Ministry.”
As per the survey, the railway will start from Raxaul/Birgunj dry port and go through Jitpur and turn north after reaching the proposed second international airport in Dumarwana, Nijgadh. The report has determined Chobhar in Kathmandu as the zero point.
It also states that the railway will intersect the fast track at two different places. Around 12 stations have been proposed between Raxaul and Chobhar.
Despite completion of the survey report, the two sides still have differences over the gauge of the railway track. The Indian side has based the survey report on broad gauge. However, Nepali technicians say the broad gauge has been outdated and instead stressed standard gauge.
As the tracks of the under-construction East-West Railway also have the standard gauge, Nepali officials have maintained their stance for the same.
The proposed Kerung-Kathmandu railway will also have the standard gauge and Nepali officials are for maintaining technical uniformity in both the lines.
But Mishra said a decision on which gauge to choose — broad or standard — will be taken only after studying the report.
“We have been calling for having the standard gauge but we have heard that the Indian side has based its report on broad gauge. We will decide our course only after studying the report,” Mishra added.
Government officials said once the two sides agree on all other technical aspects including the gauge, they will work towards preparing the detailed project report.
“It will take at least a year to prepare the DPR, which is against the agreement to complete the survey report and the DPR within a year,” said Mishra. “Let’s first see the report and we can decide about the DPR works.”
The DPR will provide an estimated total cost of the project. However, there is no clear deal over who would bear the cost of the report.
India has said it will take at least five years to complete the project after the DPR is ready and the works begin. Based on this, if everything goes smoothly, one has to wait for at least seven years for the completion of Raxaul-Kathmandu railway.
The development follows China’s decision to provide Nepal with a Rs 2 billion grant for pursuing either the cross-border railway in the north or two internal railway links.
But Mishra told the Post last week that he was not officially informed about the grant and that he also came to know about it through the government’s red book (budget details).
“I too learned from the red book that Rs 2 billion as a grant from China was allocated to our department,” Mishra told the Post last week. “But it is not certain where the grant will go. We are holding a meeting with the Chinese side within this month, after which we will be in a position to say something.”