Rs 35b and two years: Cost of detailed project report of Kathmandu-Kerung rail

  • Nepal and China are set to discuss the issue at a meeting later this month or by the second week of April, officials say
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Mar 19, 2019-

The government has estimated that it will take around two years and Rs35 billion to complete the detailed project report of the Kathmandu-Kerung railway.

The cross-border railway is one of the ambitious projects Nepal and China have been working on, completion of which, the Nepali side believes, will massively enhance its connectivity to the northern neighbour, bringing an end to the landlocked country’s one-country dependence for third country trade.

Nepal and China, however, are yet to agree on the funding modality for preparing the DPR.

According to officials, the Nepali side has already requested the Chinese railway authorities to fully fund the DPR whose confirmation is yet to be made.  

“A meeting is likely in the end of this month or by the second week of April in China. The two sides will discuss the issue and fix the date for starting the DPR [work],” Madusudan Adhikari, secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transportation, told the Post.

“As per our initial discussions with the Chinese side, given the geo-technical complexities and arduous terrain, we have estimated that it will take two years to complete the project DPR, and it will cost around Rs35 billion,” said Adhikari. “We have requested the Finance Ministry to allocate the budget to carry out the DPR work with the Chinese side jointly.”

The Chinese side has conducted the pre-feasibility study of the 121-km railway project. It handed the report to the Nepali side in December last year in Kathmandu. China First Survey and Design Institute had conducted the pre-feasibility study on a grant.

In December, the Nepali side had requested the Chinese side to fully fund the DPR process, or feasibility study in Chinese terms, of the project.

“The financial and technical nitty-gritty will be discussed during the upcoming meeting in China. At least for now though, we need to allocate the required funds in the budget. It should be either foreign loan or grant or local loan, and it must reflect on our annual budget even if the Chinese side agrees to fully fund the DPR,” said Adhikari.

After completing the detailed project report, the next step would be deciding the investment modality for the $2.75 billion (Rs257 billion) cross-border railway project.

Around 73 kilometres of the railway line will be in Nepal. As per a report prepared by the Department of Railways, around 98.5 percent of the railway would either be bridges or tunnels, and per kilometre construction cost would be Rs3.55 billion.

Nepal has insisted that China fund the DPR fully, but Beijing has been making a pitch for 50 percent contributions from both the countries.

“We have not heard anything about the funding modality from the Chinese. Discussion and decision on funding modality will be  held in Beijing within a month,” said Adhikari.

The Kathmandu-Kerung railway is one of the most talked about subjects in recent months. However, the pre-feasibility study has described the project as “complicated and arduous”.

The pre-feasibility report stated that engineering crew would build ramps along the northern and southern slopes leading to Lake Paiku, near Kerung, to connect tracks to the Kathmandu section. The ramps would overcome the huge difference in elevation between the southern and northern toes of the Himalayan mountains, it said.

The preliminary findings suggest Kathmandu section is in the “collision and splicing zone” along the Eurasian Plate, presenting six major geological problems.

The hard rock burst and the large deformation of soft rocks would cause extreme high stress, the report says. “The problem of the fault effects of the deep, active fractures are in high-intensity seismic zones and the level of seismic activities could present problems with high ground temperatures, slope stability, debris and water erosion.” The project’s longest and most steep grade is up to 95 kilometres out of the 121 km. The report says continuous use of air brakes would cause abrasion of the brake shoe and heating of tyre.

During the visit of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to China in June last year, the two sides had agreed to prepare the DPR of the Kathmandu-Kerung railway.

Apart from fixing the date to start the DPR study for the Kathmandu-Kerung rail project, the upcoming meeting in China will also discuss pre-feasibility study of Kathmandu-Pokhara railway, according to officials.

The Chinese railway team conducted one round of field trip from Kathmandu to Pokhara in December as part of the pre-feasibility study. Nepal and China have also, in principle, agreed to conduct pre-feasibility study for the Kathmandu-Lumbini railway. A final decision is yet to be taken.

Published: 19-03-2019 09:53

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