KATHMANDU: The government is planning to hire a consultant to conduct a feasibility study of Nijgadh-Hetauda-Bharatpur railway line. This alignment will be an alternative to previous link that had run into controversy for being proposed across Chitwan National Park (CNP) and Parsa Wildlife Reserve (PWR).
After criticism of the Simara-Tamsariya railway line, the Department of Railways (DoRW) had decided to look for an alternative route last year. Tamsariya-Simara is one of the sections of the proposed Mechi-Mahakali or East West Electrified Railway.
The proposed Simara-Tamsariya section had run into controversy for passing through Chitwan
The DoRW, today, said that a technical team was evaluating the technical and financial proposals submitted by three potential consultants for the feasibility study of Nijgadh-Hetauda-Bharatpur section. A total of 16 international engineering firms had submitted expressions of interest (EoIs), showing their interest for the consultancy.
“Three firms were shortlisted and issued request for proposal (RfP),” said Rajeshwor Man Singh, superintendent engineer of DoRW. “Hopefully, we will be able to select a consultant within the current fiscal year.” The consultant to be hired will need to conduct a feasibility study and recommend the best option among the three alternative alignments to avoid CNP and PWR.
The three consulting firms that were shortlisted for the RfP stage were ILF Consulting Engineers of Austria, Yooshin Engineering of South Korea in collaboration with Full Bright Consultancy of Nepal, and a joint venture of Dohwa Engineering and Kunhwa Consulting and Engineering of South Korea, Rites of India and local firm Silt Consultants.
The old plan to extend the railway alignment through the CNP, a World Heritage Site, had run into controversy citing the project would leave a negative impact on bio-diversity and endangered animals including the one-horned rhino, according to DoRW. However, despite the controversy, the department has already prepared detailed project report (DPR) of Simara-Tamsariya section which is 127.1 km long.
In the DPR, the government was also recommended to build a 15.2 km bridge for elevated railway in the CNP that would minimise environmental impacts. Of the total length of the proposed line, 60 km passes through CNP, including seven km in the core area of the park. According to the DPR of Simara-Tamsariya, the section will require an investment of Rs 120.25 billion for railway network development.
Even though the feasibility study is yet to be conducted, government officials estimate that the development of railway alignment avoiding CNP would increase the length and investment cost, while the speed design will also have to be reduced to below 160 km per hour. A source at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport said that lack of coordination among government agencies has been causing confusion over the railway development plan.
“There will be another DPR after the feasibility study which means we will be spending additional resources for the same purpose,” said the source. The source added that there must be an investigation into how the previous feasibility study was prepared and why there was no objection then with the alignment passing through the CNP. Rites, an Indian government enterprise, had conducted feasibility study of all sections of Mechi-Mahakali Electrified Railway including Tamsariya-Simara in 2010.
Based on that feasibility study, a joint venture of Soosung Engineering, Kunhwa Consulting and Engineering, Korea Rail Network Authority, Korea Transport Institute, Indian firm — International Consulting Technocrats — and Full Bright Consultancy of Nepal had completed DPR of this section last year.
A version of this article appears in print on June 29, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.