India on Friday handed over the 35 km-long cross-border rail link connecting Jaynagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Nepal to the Nepal government
India on Friday handed over the 35 km-long cross-border rail link connecting Jaynagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Nepal to the Nepal government. However, the operationalization on the rail line, which is expected to enhance trade and commerce activities as well as people-to-people linkages between the two countries, will take considerable time amid manpower shortage. Nepal currently doesn’t have the trained personnel needed to run the railway. Officials are still hoping to start operations by the end of 2021.
Built with the Indian grant assistance of around $73 million, the Jaynagar-Kurtha section is part of the 68.7km Jaynagar-Bijalpura-Bardidas rail link. This is Nepal’s broad gauge railway, converted from the narrow gauge.
According to a report in The Kathmandu Post, Nepal lacks both laws and manpower to operationalize the rail route. An ordinance promulgated by the earlier government has already lapsed and contractual staff hired by the Nepal Railway Company too was fired recently.
“We require a law and staff to start the operation of railway service on the Jayanagar-Kurtha section of the cross-border railway,” Keshav Kumar Sharma, joint secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, was quoted as saying by The Kathmandu Post.
Nepal had earlier signed an agreement with India’s Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd (KRCL), which supplied two train sets to Nepal, to help Nepal operate these trains. Under the agreement, the KRCL will assign 26 staff, including crew members, to operate the rail service for a year. Meanwhile, the company will also train the Nepali staff during the period.
On Friday, the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu said, "Once operationalized, the cross-border rail link is expected to enhance trade and commerce activities as well as people-to-people linkages between the two countries."
India has taken up a number of projects, including the Raxual-Kathmandu rail link, to develop railway connectivity in Nepal as China expanded its influence in the country. For the Himalayan country, the railway has always epitomized the essence of ‘bikas’ ( development). China, too, has been working on a rail line to connect Lhasa with Kathmandu.