The Bathnaha-Biratnagar freight train cheers on the merchants

The arrival of a freight train at Biratnagar Customs Station has caused jubilation among the industrialists of the Sunsari-Morang Industrial Corridor.

Locals said that given the rail link to Biratnagar, one of the key trade routes between Nepal and India, the industrialists who had abandoned their industries due to higher transportation costs are likely to return.

Rakesh Surana, President of the Morang Chamber of Commerce, said operating the railway will significantly reduce production costs and will also lower the end-user price for the customer.

“This would boost industrial activities in the region if the government gives continuity to railway operations,” Surana added.

According to Surana, the cost of transporting goods from Kolkata to Biratnagar in container trucks is INR 3 per kg. However, the cost of transporting the same goods from Kolkata by rail would be INR 1.95 per kg.

The eight-kilometer rail link from Bathnaha in India to Biratnagar in Nepal went into operation last Thursday. Around 500 small and large industrial companies are active in the Sunsari-Morang industrial corridor.

“In addition to reducing transportation costs, rail operations will also reduce the costs charged to shipping companies. Also, there will be less hassle in Kolkata port as the shipping containers will be available for export at Biratnagar Customs Yard,” said Nabin Rijal, President of the Morang Merchants Association.

With the rail freight operation in operation, Biratnagar traders no longer need to import their goods through Birgunj Customs as they also have direct access to Visakhapatnam Port in South India.

However, customs yards lack material storage equipment, which could be problematic when loading and unloading goods transported by rail, Rijal said.

Every day around 4,500 tons of goods arrive in more than 300 container trucks from Calcutta and other Indian cities via the Biratnagar customs office to Nepal. About 80 percent of the total imports come from India, the rest from third countries.

Chuda Mani Bhattarai, chief executive of the Morang Chamber of Industry, said that according to a study by the chamber, the railway operation would save around Rs 6.048 million a day in transport costs for industry in Biratnagar.

Officials are also hoping for a boost in government revenue once rail freight operations begin.

Gyanendra Dhakal, head of Biratnagar Customs Office, said, “The volume of transactions through this Customs Office will increase after the railway operation. Compared with other customs procedures, it is economical and time-saving, resulting in an increase in revenue.”

Biratnagar Customs aimed to generate revenue of Rs.60.03 billion in the current fiscal year. By the end of May, however, only 56.02 percent of the target value had been achieved.

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