Kathmandu-Kerung Rail line project: Nepal, China to meet in 3rd week of August 2018

KHATMANDU: Officials from Nepal and China are set to meet in Xian, the starting point of Silk Road situated in the capital of Shaanxi Province, in the third week of August to discuss the pre-feasibility study of Kathmandu–Kerung railway line.

The Chinese side handed over the report to officials from the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport and the Department of Railways (DoR) during the meeting. The study was initiated in May 2018, weeks ahead of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s China visit.

DoR Director General Ananta Acharya told the Post the meeting would also discuss the way forward based on the findings of the report. A preliminary study on railways in Nepal in the second week of November 2017 had concluded that two rail routes–Kathmandu-Kerung and Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini–could be developed in the country. The current study, according to officials, is more centred on geological situation and the rift created by the 2015 earthquake between the Indian and Tibetan tectonic plates.

“A detailed feasibility study will follow on the basis of the outcome of this study,” Acharya said, adding that the two nations will then discuss about the project financing. “There is no clarity on who will bear the cost of the detailed feasibility study. Hence, discussion on financing is likely to follow soon,” he said.

An official at the Physical Infrastructure Ministry, however, said high-level political negotiations would be required before entering into the financial aspect of the project that will connect Nepal with its northern neighbour.

The official privy about the development said the Chinese side might push for a concessional loan agreement for the project construction. “China doesn’t seem to be working on grant agreement in most of the countries where it has been involved in infrastructure projects. Same is the situation in its engagement with Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries,” the official said, underscoring why such negotiations are needed before initiating discussions on the financial modality. “We will definitely making a pitch for grant agreement.”

According to an initial report prepared by the China CAMC Engineering Company Limited and China Railway Engineering Consultants Group, 79.5km of the 121.48-km Kathmandu–Kerung railway line will be bridges and 10km tunnel.

The study locates three intermediate stations in Baireni, Dhunche and Kerung and five crossing stations in Samundra, Rautbeshi, Urleni, Lantan and Langtang on the Kathmandu-Kerung route.