Nepalese Transportation Infrastructure

Ashish Gajurel, Lecturer and Transport Consultant in Nepal

Nepal is a landlocked mountainous country with India in the east, west and south and China in the north. The geographical condition makes the development of infrastructure extreme difficult and expensive.  Roadways are the major mode of transport in Nepal, besides aviation is also serving to some extent. The presence of railway is negligible.



Road transport is the major mode of transport in the country which accounts for almost 90 per cent of the total passenger and freight transport, but the road density in Nepal is very low and the existing roads are very narrow for the present traffic. Comparative infrastructure indicators show that Nepal has the lowest coverage of infrastructure in South Asia. In addition, the quality of infrastructure services is low, as indicated by the Global Competitiveness Report 2008–2009. Its road density is the lowest in the region, with 0.6 kilometers (km) of road per 1,000 people, compared to 6.5 km in Bhutan, 4.7 km in Sri Lanka, 3.0 km in India, 1.9 km in Bangladesh, and 1.7 km in Pakistan as presented by ADB, Country Diagnostic Studies, Nepal: Critical Development Constraints, 2009.


Nepal’s total road network and density are low and only 43 percent of the population has access to all-weather roads. More than 60 percent of the network is concentrated in the lowland (Terai) areas of the country. As of 2007 the network of Nepal´s road was 17, 282 km, out of which 38% was black-topped 25% was graveled and 47% was passable in fair weather. Only 43 per cent of the population has access to all-weather roads. 32 per cent of the rural population has access to Strategic Road Network; and 43 per cent to Strategic and Local Road Networks; data as of 2006, Department of Roads, Nepal.


The presence of railways is negligible in Nepal. The country has the total physical railway line of the 57 km. Nepal Railways Company (NRC) owns the 53-kilometer narrow-gauge rail line, which is composed of two sections: 32-kilometer section between Jayanagar in India to Janakpur in Nepal, and a 21-kilometer section from Janakpur to Bijalpura. Janakpur to Bijalpura network is not operational at present. The Indian Railways manages the six-kilometer railway line (of which four-kilometers fall in Nepal) that connects Inland Clearance Deport (ICD) in Birgunj to Raxaul, India (based on The World Bank report). Nepal has an ambitious expectation for running East-West Railway linking to Kathmandu which is 1325 km railway connecting Mechi in the east and Mahakali in the west of Nepal. Besides other railways projects are under consideration.



Air service is the second popular mode of transportation in Nepal with 43 airports among which one is international airport located in Kathmandu. Most of the airports of Nepal are green field without modern technical system. Therefore in bad weather air services remain non-operated. Some hilly and high mountainous areas are without roads which are served by the air service.


Nepal’s transport sector is dominated by road transportation which accounts for almost 90 per cent of the total passenger and freight transport as a result of the country’s landlocked geographical position. While road transportation has dominated the plains and accessible areas, air transportation is the only means of reaching many remote destinations not linked to the road network. High currents and steep slopes in Himalayan River make transportation by water impossible.