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Nepal Train: are there trains in Nepal and is there a Tibet Nepal train?

October,16 2018 BY Sonam Tenphel 0 COMMENTS

Railway trains were first introduced to Nepal in the early 20th century under the rule of Shree Teen Maharaja Sir Jung Bahadur Kunwar Ranaji, commonly known as Jung Rana. The first railway built in Nepal, from Raxaul in India to Amlekhagunj in Nepal, was the first section of the Government Railway, built on narrow-gauge tracks to match the standard gauge of tracks used in India by the British. The tracks were actually constructed by British engineers in 1927, to make it easier for people from different areas to get to the station at Amlekhagunj to help with transporting Nepali timber across the border.

Stretching for 47 kilometers, the railway line was closed down in 1965, after the construction of the modern highway, now known as the Tribhuvan National Highway, linked Kathmandu all the way to the southern border. Since its closure, the Indian government has been allowed to use sections of the tracks to complete railway links to their rail line at Raxaul, a major depot for rail freight.

Raxaul to Birgunj Railway

The modern railway from Raxaul in India terminates now at Birgunj, instead of heading all the way to Amlekhagunj, as was originally built. The Nepal Railways Corporation Limited now runs the railway from Raxaul to Birgunj, as well as the line from Jayanagar to Janakpur.

Raxaul StationThe exterior of Raxaul Station.

In the late 1990s, the track from Raxaul to the Sirsiya Inland Container Depot at Birgunj was closed while the Indian Railways converted the line to the newer 1,676mm gauge tracks. It reopened in 2005, in full, though sections were completed as early as 2002, and the container depot became fully operational once again.

Essential to Nepal’s commerce and trade with both India and China, and is a major container port for containers and additional cargo to the Indian city of Kolkata, 700 kilometers away by rail. This new gauge line was in use until 2014, when it was closed once again.

The railway line is still closed, while the Nepal Railway Corporation, in conjunction with the Indian Railways, started on its plans to upgrade the ancient tracks from their post-colonial origins to the most recent broad-gauge tracks used around the world. Costing around 11 billion US dollars, the upgrade of this 59-kilometer length of track is expected to be completed in late 2018, though this is the sixth time the deadline has been extended since 2016.

Jayanagar to Bijalpura Railway

The second railway line to be constructed in Nepal was the track from Jayanagar in India to the Nepali town of Bijalpura, in the Dhanusa District of Nepal. First constructed in 1936, the 53-kilometer line was shortened to around 29 kilometers, cutting off the section that ran from Janakpur to Bijalpura in 2001. The line was closed after a washout from the monsoon rains destroyed the railway embankment and two bridges along the stretch of tracks from Janakpur to Bijalpura, and in 2014, the section from Jayanagar to Janakpur was also closed, to upgrade these tracks to broad-gauge as well. The track is expected to reopen in late 2019, and is currently on schedule.

Jaimagar Railway StationThe second railway line will connect Jayanagar, India to Bijalpura, Nepal.

Proposed Future Railways

Nepal has long awaited the reopening of the lines from Raxaul and Jayanagar, and once they come back into operation, other extensions and new railway lines are being proposed. The first new line is the proposed extension of the tracks from Jayanagar to Janakpur, which is intended to be extended as far as Bardibas, in the Mahottari District of Southern Nepal. The tracks will connect with the Mahindra Highway, which runs from the east to the west of the country, and the BP Highway, which connects Bardibas with Dhulikhel. The line was proposed to be completed by the end of 2018, but has been delayed due to the delays on the Raxaul line.

Other proposed lines in Nepal include the route from Jogbani in the Bihar State of India to Biratnagar in the Province No. 1 of Nepal, the second most densely populated city in Nepal, after Kathmandu. Also, it is planned to link New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal with Kakarbhitta in eastern Nepal, crossing the border directly to better access Bhutan and the northeastern states of India, as well as from Nautanwa (Uttar Pradesh) to Siddharthanagar (Outer Terai, southern Nepal) and Rupaidiha in Uttar Pradesh with Nepalgunj, the popular Nepali border crossing.

india to nepal route map(Simple click to enlarge the map)
India Nepal Travel Map

Nepal and India have also made plans and agreements to extend the line from Raxaul to Birgunj as far as Kathmandu. Agreed during the visit of the Nepali Prime minister, KP Oli Sharma, to India, a team of Indian technical officers has already completed a study of the proposed route from Raxaul to Kathmandu, and a feasibility study of the proposed tracks is set to begin before 2020. The study has already identified that Chobhar, in the Bagmati Zone of the Kathmandu Valley, would be the terminus of this 113-kilometer-long track to the Nepali capital.

The future proposals for additional railways came after the Nepali Prime Minister visited both India and China, and saw the vast extent of the railway networks that crisscrossed the nations, linking almost every city and town in a huge web of fast, cheaper travel. The proposed railways at Biratnagar, Kakarbhitta, Siddharthanagar, and Nepalgunj are an inspired attempt to improve the access for Indian and international travelers to move overland to Nepal, which could boost the Nepali tourism statistics in their slower monsoon season months.

Trains to Nepal from Tibet

At the moment, there is no existing train from Tibet to Nepal, although one is currently under construction and planning. Following the completion of the famous Qinghai Tibet Railway, which finally linked Lhasa and Tibet with the rest of China, a spur extension was constructed, running from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to the second city, Shigatse. This first extension of the new Tibetan Railways opened in 2014, and has been running well for the past four years. Here you’ll find the latest Lhasa Shigatse train schedule & timetable.

During the 2016 visit of Prime Minister Oli to China, Nepal and China signed a treaty on international transit and trade, opening up further relations and commerce between the two countries. This treaty included a plan to construct a high-speed railway link that would run from the Tibetan regional capital, Lhasa, to the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, crossing the mighty Himalayas and dropping down to the Kathmandu Valley.

In June of 2018, the two nations agreed that the railway construction project would be a major component of the extended series of engineering projects proposed by the two leaders during the 2016 treaty. The construction of the first section of the tracks is already completed, as far as Shigatse in western Tibet, and the second section, from Shigatse to Gyirong, is expected to be completed by 2022, although it has not been started yet.

The route of the railway across Tibet will follow the general route of the G318 National highway, also known as the Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway, which runs all the way to the Sino-Nepal border. After leaving Shigatse, the route will head through Lhatse, Sa’gya, Dinggye, Tingri, and Nyalam, from where it will follow the G219 national Road all the way to the border town of Gyirong.

Lhasa Kathmandu Train Map
Lhasa to Kathmandu Railway Route Map

The final section of the tracks, which will run all the way to Chobhar in the Bagmati Zone of the Kathmandu Valley, the same proposed station as the planned route from Raxaul to Kathmandu. Running for 72 kilometers, this section is considered to be one of the most challenging railway projects in the world, due to the topography of the Himalayas, and the fast drop on the Nepali side to the lower altitudes.

It has been claimed that around 98 percent of this section from Gyirong to Kathmandu will consist of either tunnels or bridges, and the project has yet to have an estimated cost put to it. Engineers and geologists are still studying the route from Gyirong Town and over the mountains, crossing the border at the same place as the Resuo Bridge. However, there are four stations planned along the route from Gyirong to Kathmandu, which have already been assessed, including Sankhu, in the northeastern corner of the Kathmandu Valley.

A further extension of the Lhasa to Kathmandu line is being discussed as well, which would link Kathmandu with the towns of Pokhara and Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. If it does go ahead, it would make travel from the Tibetan capital to the Nepali capital and beyond much faster and cheaper.

The ramifications of the connections from Lhasa to Kathmandu and Kathmandu to Raxaul are in line with the Chinese plans to extend its reach by road, rail, and sea along the route of the Belt and Road Initiative, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt. A huge bid by the Chinese government to enhance the future connectivity of the region’s main nations, as well as embracing a brighter future for trade and commerce for all, this connecting railway link at Kathmandu could be the beginning of a massive increase in trade and tourism for both Tibet and Nepal.

Further Reading about Tibet Nepal Bhutan India Travel by Train
>> How to Get to Tibet from India
>> Can I Travel from Nepal to Bhutan by Train?
>> How to Travel from India to Tibet by Train
>> How to Get to Nepal: Cheapest Way, by Flight, Overland or Train?
>> How to Get to Bhutan from India

Sonam Tenphel

About the Author - Sonam Tenphel

Energetic, responsible and reliable, Sonam is a guide with more than seven years experience informing visitors about heritage sites and attractions places in Tibet.

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