Asia/Kathmandu

Nepal and China paving a train route

The Nepali government has calculated that it will take around two years and 35 billion rupees ($317.1 million) to finish the detailed project report (DPR) of the Kathmandu-Kerung railway.

The cross-border railway is one of the enthusiastic projects Nepal and China have been working on, completion of which, the Nepali side believes, will massively increase their connectivity to the northern neighbour, bringing an end to the landlocked country’s one-country dependence for third country trade.

Nepal and China, but, are yet to agree on the funding modality for preparing the DPR. In accordance with officials, the Nepali side has suggested the Chinese railway authorities to fully fund the DPR, whose confirmation is yet to be made.

The Chinese side has carried out a pre-feasibility research of the 121km railway project. It given the details to the Nepali side in December last year in Kathmandu. China First Survey and Design Institute conducted the pre-feasibility study on a grant.

In December, the Nepali side asked the Chinese side to fully fund the DPR process, or feasibility study in Chinese terms, of the project.

“The financial and technical nitty-gritty is going to be discussed during the upcoming meeting in China. At a minimum for now although, we must allocate the needed funds in the budget. It really must be both foreign loan or grant or local loan, and it should reflect on our total annual budget even though the Chinese side agrees to fully fund the DPR,” claimed Adhikari.

After finishing the detailed project report, the next step would probably be determining the making an investment modality for the $2.75 billion cross-border railway project.

Around 73km of the railway line will be in Nepal. According to a study well prepared by the Department of Railways, around 98.5 percent of the railway would both be bridges or tunnels, and per km construction cost would be 3.55 billion rupees.

Nepal has insisted that China fund the DPR fully, but Beijing has been making a pitch for 50 percent contributions from both nations.

“We have never heard anything about the funding modality from the Chinese. Discussion and decision on funding modality is going to be held in Beijing within a month,” claimed Adhikari.

The Kathmandu-Kerung railway is one of the most discussed subjects in recent months. But, the pre-feasibility study has explained the project as “complicated and arduous”.

The pre-feasibility document claimed that engineering team will build ramps along the northern and southern slopes leading to Lake Paiku, near Kerung, to connect tracks to the Kathmandu section. The ramps would certainly overcome the big differences in elevation between the southern and northern toes of the Himalayan mountains, it stated.

The preliminary discoveries suggest Kathmandu section is in the “collision and splicing zone” along the Eurasian Plate, presenting six major geological difficulties.

The hard rock and roll blast and the big deformation of soft rocks will cause extreme high stress, the report states. “The problem of the fault impacts of the deep, active fractures are in high-intensity seismic zones and the level of seismic activities could present problems with high ground temperatures, slope stability, debris and water erosion.”

The project’s longest and most steep grade is up to 95km out of the 121km. The report states continuous use of air brakes will cause erosion of the brake shoe and heating of tire.

During Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to China in June, the two sides assured to prepare the DPR of the Kathmandu-Kerung railway. Besides fixing the date to start the DPR study for the Kathmandu-Kerung rail project, the forthcoming conference in China will also talk about the pre-feasibility study of Kathmandu-Pokhara railway, according to officials.

The Chinese railway team carried out one round of field trip from Kathmandu to Pokhara in December as part of the pre-feasibility study. Nepal and China have also, in principle, made a decision to conduct a pre-feasibility study for the Kathmandu-Lumbini railway. The last determination is still to be taken.

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