Source: eKantipur (http://tinyurl.com/jsbnur9)
At least two Chinese companies have shown interest to develop rail networks connecting China with Nepal, and one of them has submitted a feasibility report for a rail link between Kathmandu and Pokhara.
The China CAMC Engineering Company Ltd, which has submitted a feasibility report on Kathmandu-Pokhara electric railway, plans to develop 164.395-kilometre railway, which will have 27 tunnels and 53 bridges. This segment will have 12 stations between Kathmandu and Pokhara, according to the report.
The Kathmandu-Pokhara route which, according to the report, starts from Tokha (Kathmandu station), will travel along the Prithvi Highway and pass through Malekhu, Mugling, Dumre and Damauli before reaching Pokhara. The CAMC in its report has also proposed two routes–Kathmandu-Kerung and Baireni-Kerung–to connect Nepal and China.
The Kathmandu-Kerung route will be 121-km long with a 10-km tunnel and eight stations. Similarly, the 119.11-km Baireni (Dhading)-Kerung segment will consist a 22-km tunnel with eight stations.
Another proposed railway link aims to connect Lumbini with Kurintar, which will be 152-km long with six tunnels, 16 bridges and eight stations.
Similarly, another Chinese company China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC) also has recently applied at the Department of Railway for feasibility study of Kathmandu-Rasuwagadhi railway.
The trans-Himalayan railway connectivity gathered momentum after Nepal and China agreed on “exchanging ideas and proposals on constructing cross-border railways and railway network in Nepal and support enterprises to start related preparatory work as soon as possible” during Prime Minister KP Oli’s visit to northern neighbour in March.
Subsequently, the government in the new budget announced that it would prepare a detailed project report for Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini rail network for which the construction will start in two years.
For Nepali policy makers, the urgency for new transport connectivity with China came following the four-and-a-half-month-long Indian blockade that crippled the country’s southern trade routes.
With China working to extend railway line from Shigatse to Kerung by 2020, many in Nepal see cross-border railway a possibility, which will not only provide new transport connectivity with the northern neighbour but will also scale up economic ties between the two countries. According to Ananta Acharya, director general of the Department of Railway, the CAMC Engineering Company, which has also bagged the contract for constructing an international airport in Pokhara, has sought permission to conduct the detail project report (DPR).
“Ahead of the DPR, we have to request for detailed project proposal from the Chinese side. Then only can they come here for the DPR,” he added.
According to Mahesh Maskey, Nepal’s former ambassador to China, the two countries had agreed to expand cross-border connectivity during PM Oli’s visit to China, but mutual trust from both the sides will be required to take the project ahead.
“Given the difficult topography on the Nepali side, the project will need huge investment and synergy to complete,” said Maskey.
The Chinese firm in the report proposes to undertake financial and technical investments for the Kathmandu-Pokhara project itself with loan interest of two percent. Government officials confirmed that China CAMC has sought approval for the DPR. “Otherwise, why would they invest such a huge sum of money for the DPR,” said a senior government official.