China has begun the groundwork to lay the proposed strategic railway line connecting Lhasa to Kathmandu and finally to Lumbini close to the India-Nepal border. China has put out pictures of the exploration and surveys of the railway project. It showed a team carrying out some kind of a ground assessment at a site where the rail corridor is being planned.

This comes amid tensions between India and China coupled with a diplomatic row between India and Nepal.

China has put out pictures of the exploration and surveys of the railway project. It showed a team carrying out some kind of a ground assessment at a site where the rail corridor is being planned.

The railway line that is proposed to come till Lumbini, the birth place of a lord Buddha right on the India border, has not gained much pace since it was first planned in 2008. The next deadline for the ambitious project is 2025. While the construction hasn’t started, the survey is part of a pre-feasibility study for the project, sources in India tracking the developments said.

The plan was conceptualised by China in 2008 and it was decided that the railway corridor would connect Lhasa to Shigatse and would be extended to Keyrung on the Nepal border. This is to be further stretched to Kathmandu and Lumbini. 

Cost has been a major concern with the entire project already hitting estimates of over USD 300 million. The project is complex with several tunnels and bridges required. Sources said China wanted Nepal to share the costs but that has delayed matters. Many feel that before the railways China will come up with road projects in Nepal because of the feasibility and cost concerns.

India’s Rail Plans To Nepal

To counter China’s influence through the proposed rail corridor, India has also planned railway links in Nepal. Six cross border railway lines have been proposed between India and Nepal till date. 

When asked about the status of these projects, V K Yadav, Chairman railway board said, “We have prioritised all our infrastructure projects to super critical and critical projects, basically we are ensuring that all the infrastructure projects are expedited but for this latest project.. the complete details and timeline would be provided later.”

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Unlike the Nepal-China railway line that faces hurdles because of the terrain, the construction of railway lines between India and Nepal is less challenging. Two of these projects have had some progress, sources said.

Jayanagar-Janakpur-Bardibas Railway Line 

The 69 km project is divided in three phases. In the first phase, the 34-km segment between Jayanagar and Kurtha is complete. Work is in progress in the second phase which is 18 km from Kurtha to Bhangaha in Mahottari district and the third phase which is a 17 km segment from Bhangaha to Bardibas.

Jayanagar-Janakpur broad gauge railway line project is a (34 km) railway track, of which tracks have been In July 2018, during Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to India, both sides agreed to put concerted efforts and resolve all issues expeditiously, to complete the railway lines from Jayanagar to Janakpur-Kurtha and from Jogbani to Biratnagar Customs Yard by the October 2018 timeline.

The project has missed several deadlines and now the target is 2021. Sources have indicated that certain operational issues with regards to the running of trains, rolling stock, catering etc are pending.

Kathmandu-Raxual Railway Line

Raxual-Kathmandu is a 136 km-long railway project and is proposed to be an electrified rail line connecting the border town in India of Raxaul to Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.

The Indian team has already completed the pre-feasibility study of Kathmandu-Raxual railway line and both were in the process of holding consultations on preparing the Detailed Project Report of the railway line.