Pristine Logistics and Infraprojects, a private container train operations company, has tied up with Valley Group, a poultry company in Nepal, to operate inland container depot Birgunj between India and Nepal, a landlocked country. Birgunj is Nepal’s only rail-linked terminal.
Pristine has won the right to handle the terminal for five years, extendable by another five years. It will take over operations from Container Corporation of India (Concor), the Railways’ listed unit.
Pristine, which has investments from private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners, hopes to start operating the inland container depot from August 7, Amit Kumar, Director, Pristine Logistics and Infraprojects, told BusinessLine. Pristine, a company with 20 container trains and four operational container terminals, is promoted by a team of former Indian Railway officials.
Valley Group is a Kathmandu-headquartered company with exposure to poultry feed, automobiles, fast foods, cold chain, construction and building material, among others.
On why Pristine bid for the project, Kumar said that it is Nepal’s most important customs infrastructure for handling third country imports and is also its most preferred route. It is considered the lifeline for Nepal’s trade and industry, he said, adding that ICD Birgunj has an annual turnover of over ₹100 crore. Others vying for the project included Concor, companies from Adani and JM Baxi Group.
“We believe that the traffic can be easily increased by at least 50 per cent very soon, with the right interventions. Our focus will be to improve services for third country imports. Also, we believe that significant volumes of bilateral trade moving by road can be converted to rail, especially in containers using the infrastructure available at Inland Container Depot Birgunj,” according to Kumar.
Pristine plans to leverage the company’s existing terminal network to improve efficiencies for India’s export to Nepal as well as competitiveness in terms of costs. As per the RSA (Rail Service Agreement) between India and Nepal, only Indian Railways and Concor can operate their trains for Birgunj. “We hear that the two governments are working on updating their bilateral trade agreements including the RSA to improve efficiencies,” said Rajneesh Kumar, Director, Pristine.
While the bilateral trade between India and Nepal has dipped, import to Nepal and movement of third-country cargo has increased. Also, while industries may be hit, but import of consumables has increased, Kumar said. Containers headed for and away from Nepal, the current regulations allow only Kolkata and Visakhapatnam Ports to handle Nepal containers.
“The challenges of rail operations revolve around capacity issues at the ICD (Terminal) as well as the train routes between the Ports (in India) and the ICD. We are working on plans to improve the constraints of the terminal and are in discussions with the Authorities (in Nepal) who have responded positively. The rail routes need interventions and attention from the Indian Railways. We shall be working with them for increasing business for both,” Kumar said.
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