New Delhi: Rail operations between India and Nepal got a major boost on Friday with authorization to all cargo train operators to utilize the Indian railway network for carrying containers bound for the neighbouring Himalayan nation.
These containers could be bilateral freight between India and Nepal or third country freight from Indian ports to Nepal.
“This liberalization will allow market forces to come up in the rail freight segment in Nepal and is likely to increase efficiency and cost-competitiveness, eventually benefiting the Nepalese consumer,” the Railways said in a statement.
In 2004, a Rail Services Agreement was executed for the introduction of freight train service between the two countries — to and from Birgunj (Nepal) via Raxaul (India).
According to the Railway Ministry, the rationale behind this agreement was since there was no rail movement between the two countries a framework was required for the operational and commercial aspects as well as procedures for customs clearances for rail cargo.
Since then, various developments have taken place which require changes to the Rail Services Agreement (RSA).
There is a provision in Article 1.4 of the RSA that “the agreement shall be reviewed every five years and may be modified by the contracting parties by mutual consent”.
The authorization to all cargo train operators to use the Indian railway network for carrying containers bound for Nepal came into effect from Friday following a formal exchange of ‘Note Verbales’ and signed copies of Letter of Exchange (LoE) between officials of India and Nepal.
“After this LoE, all kinds of cargoes in all categories of wagons that can carry freight on Indian Railways network within India can also carry freight to and from Nepal.
“These cargo train operators include public and private container trains operators, automobile freight train operators, special freight train operators or any other operator authorised by the Indian Railways,” a statement from the rail ministry said.
It said that the move will reduce transportation costs for automobiles and certain other products whose carriage takes place in special wagons.
According to the statement, wagons owned by Nepal Railway Company will also be authorised to carry Nepal-bound freight (inbound and outbound on Kolkata/Haldia to Biratnagar/Birganj routes) over Indian Railways’ network as per its standards and procedures.