Kerung-Kathmandu railway should be built with Chinese grant: Minister Gyawali


Chinese President Xi Jinping had expressed confidence that Chinese train will reach Kathmandu during the China visit of Prime Minister (PM) KP Sharma Oli on June 20.
Nepal and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to operate electric freight train the very next day. Four points of the 10-point MoU signed during the China visit of PM Oli were related to railways.
China had already completed preliminary study of the Kerung-Kathmandu railway by the time the MoU was signed.
China Railway First Survey Design Institute Group had completed a week-long field study by May end. The report was handed over to the Nepali side on August 20.
The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and the Chinese railway administration have discussed on the preliminary study on the railway line at Xian, Chine from August 19-22.
The report has put the estimated cost of 72.25-kilometer railway at Rs 257 billion and it will take nine years to complete it. But there had been little progress after that meeting in Xian.
“They have handed over the report. Officials of the two countries are conducting internal discussions on how to move forward,” Director General at the Department of Railways Balaram Mishra said. “A bilateral meeting will be held in Kathmandu in December. Decision on how to move forward will be taken then.”
An official with the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure, who attended the meeting in Xian in August, said China is expecting Nepal to state the financial modality in which it wants the railway to be built.
“Almost 500 kilometers of track has yet to be laid from Shigatse to Kerung. They may not connect the railway to Kerung if that is not extended to Kathmandu,” the official told Setopati. “The interest Nepal will show on the railway and the model in which it wants it to be built will be important for them to move the process forward.”
The Chinese side has borne all the expenses for the study until now. “The Chinese side wants clarity on how Nepal wants to move forward. But our government has not been able to clearly state how to move forward. A few are saying that the railway cannot be constructed if it were not built with Chinese grant,” the official stated.
Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali said discussions are being held from different angles on how to construct the Kerung-Kathmandu railway as Nepal has put it in top priority. “This is not just a railway for us and rather is a means for us to end being land-locked and connect with the global economy,” Minister Gyawali told Setopati. “But we are not in a position to invest Rs 300 billion on a single project now. We, therefore, urge China to build this project on grant.”
He revealed that Nepal can make some investment on the project by taking soft loans if China does not agree to build it completely with grant. “We will decide how to move forward after the detailed project report (DPR) is prepared following feasibility study.”

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