A pre-feasibility study of a railway into Nepal from Tibet carried out by a Chinese team in 2018 suggests that it would be an engineering feat and very expensive, but not an impossible task.
Preliminary estimates put the cost of just the 170km Kerung to Kathmandu section of the railway at 38 billion yuan ($5.5 billion). Even though only 30% of the length from Menbu to Kathmandu is in Nepal, it will account for almost half the cost of the project because of the required tunneling.
Despite these challenges, Nepal’s railway dream moved closer to reality after the project was listed as one of the 64 to be considered under China’s BRI during the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in April.
“Technically this will be one of the world’s toughest railways to construct,” says Paribesh Parajuli, the only train engineer at Nepal’s Department of Railways, who was educated in China and is a consultant for the study.
The feasibility study has not yet been made public, but is said to list ‘six extremes’ that will be challenging: topography, weather, hydrology, tectonics, and cost.
And despite speculation that the railway alignment will follow the Bhote Kosi River across the Himalaya to Nuwakot, the study actually lays out a much more adventurous course under Langtang National Park, below Gosainkunda and Shivapuri National Park to enter Kathmandu Valley at Tokha. Stations will be located at bridge points where the tunnels emerge at Langtang Khola and Pati Bhanjyang.
The gradient required to descend from 4,000m on the Tibetan Plateau to 1,400m above Kathmandu is so steep that engineers have proposed drilling through the mountains with 98% of the tracks on the Nepal side inside tunnels.
Source credit: Nepali Times.com
Date:July 5, 2019