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Kathmandu train on table

New Delhi, April 12: The Centre is considering proposals to develop railway lines along the Nepal border, taking the link up to Kathmandu.

The idea, backed by the security agencies, is to counter China’s plans to extend the Qinghai-Lhasa line to the Nepal border.

A line already connects Raxaul in Bihar to Birganj just across the Nepal border, but it only transports containers. The Rail India Technical and Economic Services (Rites) has now been asked to do a technical and traffic study to see if the line can be extended to Kathmandu.

India, which is looking to extend several other lines across the Nepal border, wants them to kick off by carrying freight and later ferry passengers.

Railway officials said the Centre was spurred by China’s plans, fearing it may lose its strategic and economic advantage in Nepal.

“Rites has just submitted a feasibility report on extending the Darbhanga-Jayanagar line (in Bihar) to Janakpur and Birdibas in Nepal,” a senior Railway Board official said.

“There are plans to take a branch of the Saharsa-Purnea line into Nepal. A new line between Jayanagar and Sitamarhi (both in Bihar near the border) has just been sanctioned in the budget.”

Sources said extending the Raxaul-Birganj line to Kathmandu would cut costs.

“Trucks now carry supplies from Birganj, 220km from Kathmandu by road, onward into Nepal. And trucks are easy to rob,” the official said. “The railway line (cutting through mountains) will just have to be 80km long and will be more secure.”

The official said a preliminary study had found five other routes technically and financially feasible:

• A 12.11km stretch from Nepalgunj Road in Uttar Pradesh to Nepalgunj in Nepal

• A 15.3km line between Nautanwa in UP and Bhairawaha near Lumbini in Nepal

• A 17.65km line between Jogbani in Bihar’s Araria district and Nepal’s Viratnagar

• A 46.3km stretch from New Jalpaiguri to Kakrabitta

• A 70km stretch between Jaynagar and Birdibas

The official said: “Although almost the entire Indian network is broad gauge, Nepal still has narrow gauge. Kathmandu wants India to convert Nepal’s tracks to broad gauge at its own cost. Even if we do it for them, it will still benefit us.”

He said that probably only one or two routes will be finalised by the two governments. “But India is going to push for the Kathmandu link.”

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