In the presence of the Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the first passenger train service between Nepal and India on April 2.

Things to know about the India-Nepal Railway project

  • The Jaynagar-Kurtha cross-border railway link is 34.50 km long and is the first rail line between the two countries.
  • This 35 km railway link will connect Jaynagar in Bihar with Kurtha in Nepal. The operation will begin with a five-coach Diesel-electric multiple unit (DEMU) train. Indian railways have also permitted to run off the Jaynagar and Kurtha train at a speed of 100-km-per-hour.
  • The maintenance of the project will be done by Nepal, which is considering Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL)
  • In 2021, the project got completed at the cost of 780 Crore. India is bearing all the project costs as a part of a grant to Nepal.
  • More projects in the pipeline include the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) for laying an electric rail track between Kathmandu and Bihar.

The project was completed in 2021. However, it kept on facing delays due to a dedicated law on railway operation needed to start a passenger service being delayed by the Nepalese Parliament.

The project is worked on in a phase-wise manner. In an interview with All India Radio (AIR), The East Central Railway (ECR) chief public relations officer (CPRO), Birendra Kumar, shared, “The first and second phases of the project between Jayanagar and Kurtha and Kurtha and Bijalpura, respectively, have already been completed. Work on the phase between Bijalpura and Bardibas a stretch of 69 km is in full swing”.

Is the government planning to expand Indian Railways operation to other countries?

Yes, the Indian Railways already operates in India-Bangladesh. Although there was a rail link between India-Pakistan known as Samjhauta Express, it was suspended due to lack of occupancy. The train used to run between Delhi and Attari in India to Lahore, working only twice a week, i.e. Thursday and Monday.

The ones running between India and Bangladesh are Maitree Express and Bandhan Express. Maitree Express is a fully air-conditioned international express train that connects Dhaka to Kolkata, while Bandhan express runs between Kolkata-Khulna. However, instead of passenger trains, the government plans to increase the number of freight trains (trains that carry goods instead of people).

In a written reply to Lok Sabha, Minister of Railways, Communications Electronic & Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “Freight trains are already running from India to Bangladesh and Nepal. Running of such trains depends upon demand from trade and capacity in these countries to receive and handle the freight trains.”

“Although there is no set target for increasing share of trade through rail, various steps have been taken for increasing freight trains to Bangladesh and Nepal like increase in interchange points for running freight trains; diversification of cargo and use of different types of wagons; assistance in the development of rail infrastructure in these countries; amendments to Rail Service Agreements for running freight trains; etc,” Vaishnaw further said.