Impatience grows as Nepal Railways delays commercial launch

Excitement came to a head when Nepal Railways announced that the new Kurtha-Jayanagar train would begin trials after being wrapped in tarpaulin for a year and a half.

And so on February 13, the trials began. But the euphoria quickly turned to desperation as the trials went on daily, but there is no sign of the commercial service start date.

Every day at 10 a.m. the empty train arrives at Kurtha station in Dhanusha and returns to Jayanagar at 1 p.m. Hundreds of people stand beside the tracks to admire the train without passengers as it makes its way back and forth.

“We watched the train come and go every day. But we are not allowed to get on it,” said Kamlesh Mandal, a resident of Mills area in Janakpur. “It looks like the carriages are comfortable and modern. We can’t wait to travel by train, but we can’t.”

The 36 km long railway connects Kurtha in Nepal to Jayanagar in India. Residents have complained about the railway authority’s decision to delay the commercial launch.

State-owned Nepal Railways said it successfully completed the trial, but it did not let people know when they will get the chance to travel on board.

“We are all ready for the commercial launch,” said Niranjan Jha, managing director of Nepal Railways. “The test run ended successfully.”

But Jha said they are awaiting announcement of the groundbreaking date for the commercial launch. Officials say the prime ministers of Nepal and India are expected to jointly launch the rail service.

“But due to the busy schedules of the two prime ministers, people were unable to travel on the modern train,” officials said.

The railway was built with the help of the Indian government.

According to Jha, they plan to run two services a day in the first phase. The twice-daily service will serve at least 5,000 passengers.

The cross-border train journey from Kurtha to Jayanagar will take 1.5 hours.

A general bus ticket will cost Rs70. According to officials, a ticket in an air-conditioned coach will cost 300 rupees.

On May 10, 2019, the Ministry of Railways signed an agreement with India’s Konkan Railways Corporation for the supply of two diesel-electric multiple units to operate passenger services from Kurtha to Janakpur in Jayanagar, India.

On September 18, 2020, two new trainsets arrived at Janakpur station with great fanfare. Nepal had bought them at a price of 846.5 million rupees. But as their operation was delayed, the two trains were kept parked on the track covered with tarpaulins.

The tarpaulins of the two trains parked at Inaruwa station in Janakpur were removed a month ago.

After the Sher Bahadur Deuba government was formed in July last year, the railway company’s managing director Guru Prasad Bhattarai and about 150 employees hired by the former KP Oli-led government were sacked.

The railway is the country’s first broad-gauge railway line, the newest avatar of the historic Janakpur-Jayanagar service between Nepal and India, which was once an important means of border crossing for citizens of both countries.

It was originally built as a freight line to transport timber from Nepal to India in 1937. After the dismantling of the narrow gauge track, a new broad gauge track was laid with the help of l ‘India. The project was completed at the end of 2019.