Nepal studies train link to Tibet

The Shigatse-Kathmandu rail link has moved up the priority list as Nepalese politicians prepare fiscal budgets.

Nepal’s parliamentary committee on development instructed the government on Tuesday to conduct a feasibility study to connect Kathmandu to China, acting both on the country’s 2013-2016 periodic three-year economic development plan and the Sino-Nepalese memorandum of understanding signed on December 18 last year, to be implemented  via the Framework of Nepal-China Joint Committee on Economic and Trade Cooperation.

After Tibet, which saw the closing of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway reach its second city, Shigatse, last August, Nepal is next in line in China’s plans to forge railway links to the western extremities of the Asian continent. The Parliament’s prioritising of the plans in the executive agenda is reported by local press to have received encouragement from Beijing.

Tulasi Prasad Sitaula, Ministry Secretary, was reported to have said that the funds for the study would be requested for the next fiscal budget.

The committee directed the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport and the Department of Railway to study the feasibility of railway construction from Rasuwa on the Chinese border to Tibet’s main city, Kathmandu.

On the other side of the border, Karung is 540kms away from Shigatse, where the last train station was built, and there is hope from Nepalese politicians that, by the time the Chinese honour their part of the contract, the government will be in a position to start construction eastwards.

The plans follow the opening last August of a link between Tibet's two main cities. The 254km (160-mile) line connecting Tibet Autonomous Region’s chief city, Lhasa, to the region’s second city, Shigatse, was hailed by local press as “a new engineering marvel” at inauguration.

After 12 years of planning and construction, including the technical prowess of permafrost-proof tracks through 96 tunnels and waterways, and rising above 13,000 feet (nearly four kilometers) of altitude, the $2 billion project has reduced a five-hour road journey to a two-hour train trip.

A daily volume of 2,300 passengers were reported within the first month of operation last year.