Back on Track: Nepal rebuilds its passenger railway

17th Jun, 2017 | Tourism Mail Crew

JANAKPUR, June 17 : Shrubs spring up around a rusted train engine in southeast Nepal, with carriages propped up on bricks and tall grass growing over abandoned wheels in mute testimony to years of neglect suffered by an abandoned railway line.

First built as a cargo line to carry wood from Nepal to India in 1937, it was once the lifeblood of the community in Janakpur, running 29 km (18 miles) from Jainagar in India's neighbouring eastern state of Bihar

The train service, which eventually became a cheap way for travellers to cross the international border, closed in January 2014 for a $100-million project to upgrade the colonial-era narrow rail track into a broad-gauge line.

Now the only sign of life is laughing children, who chase each other through the disintegrating carriages, climbing on rusting benches and tumbling over one another.

But the closure hit Janakpur hard, with close to 130 railway employees losing their jobs, said Tula Bahadur Dangi, acting general manager of Nepal Railway Corporation, who has worked for the company for 18 years

Travellers have been forced to use buses instead, paying three times the price of a train ticket for a journey four times as long, which is complicated further during the monsoon rains that make the roads muddy.

Other trades dependent on the railway have also suffered.

"There is no business now, compared to when there was a train," lamented Rajendra Kushwaha, who ran a bookstall at Janakpur railway station for 45 years

The revamp of the railway, set to be completed next March, presents clear signs of renewal and the improvements to come.

Construction is nearly 80 percent complete, with stations and bridges built, and land levelled to lay tracks, extending the track to Bardibas in the north, a distance of 69 km (43 miles) away, with a total of 14 stations on the route.