It was closed for years but now it will be seen again – in a new avatar.
Popular since the early 20th century, rail connectivity between Nepal and India is set to resume on the neighboring country’s first broad gauge passenger service. The first section is ready: a 34-kilometre line between Jaynagar in Bihar and Kurtha in Nepal, with the Hindu pilgrimage town Janakpur Dham in the middle.
On 21 October, Nepal Railway Company is set to acquire the assets of the 68.73 km long Jayanagar-Bardibas link from the Indian engineering major IRCON, which constructed the line. And in the second first, Jayanagar station will have a parallel building operated by Nepal Railway Company.
Indian Railways has assured all possible assistance to its Nepal counterpart so that operations can resume at the earliest. Konkan Railway Corporation Limited has received the contract for operation and maintenance of the line, and will train and develop the manpower provided by Nepal as per bilateral understanding.
Nepal has been asked to start operations by this year. “It has been emphasized by us that early operations will avoid asset degradation,” said an Indian official. Naveen Bharat.
Sources said given the importance of the project and with connectivity to the pilgrimage site of Janakpur, the inauguration of the first commercial service will be a politically “high-profile” affair, for which the date and time will be jointly worked out.
In 1937, the British built a narrow gauge line to ferry cargo, mainly logs, from Nepal to India. However, over time it became a popular passenger service before it was discontinued in 2014 to convert to broad gauge.
New Delhi decided to carry out the entire gauge conversion work including trains running on the link. The second stretch of 17 km from Kurtha to Bijalpura is also being finalised. Land is being handed over to IRCON for the remaining stretch till Bardibas. India is bearing the construction cost of Rs 784 crore for the entire section as a grant to Nepal.
As per the tentative schedule of services, the train from Jaynagar to Kurtha will take about an hour, stopping between six stations in Nepal – Innerwa, Khajuri, Mahinathpur, Baidehi, Pareha and Janakpur. A total of three daily trips are being planned, officials said.
Nepal Railway Company will depute everyone from station master to ticket checker, commercial staff to be trained by India.
The line is seen as a minor link to a larger plan to deepen India’s ties with Nepal through railways, bypassing the influence of other neighboring countries in this strategically important region. .
Earlier this week, the India-Nepal Joint Working Group signed an agreement for a final location survey for a broad gauge line between Raxaul and Kathmandu in Bihar. When completed, it will be a mountain railway that will direct rail connectivity between Nepal’s capital city and the Indian network, opening several avenues for cross-border movement.