Nepal Drivers To Switch Sides

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The Ministry of Labour and Transportation Management announced in Kathmandu today that Nepal will switch from driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right. The statement also said that the government will offer subsidized conversion kits for existing vehicles with right-side steering.

Transport Enhancement Division spokesman Latta Man Singh made the announcement in a joint news conference with police officials. He said that the proposal had been initiated by the Traffic Police after all other attempts to manage Kathmandu’s chaotic roads had failed. Singh said that his ministry had supported the idea from the beginning and saw it as a modernization step.

“We drive on the left only because the British forced India to do so,” he said. “People in the most developed countries drive on the right side of the road, and in the New Nepal we will too. That’s sure to encourage development in Nepal.”

The change will be phased in gradually according to Singh. Initially only government vehicles with yellow and white license plates will switch to right-side driving. After two weeks black-plate commercial vehicles will change over, and eventually private autos with red license plates will join them. The process is scheduled to be completed within 60 days.

Singh said that after extensive consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it had been decided that diplomatic and other blue-plated vehicles would be allowed to drive on either side of the road. Electric vehicles were exempted from the new rule at the request of the Ministry of Water Resources, and so will continue to drive on the left.

Opposition parties applauded the move to the right, but a statement from the coalition-partner UML slammed the move as anti-poor and demanded subsidized conversion kits for motorcycle riders, bicyclists and pedestrians too.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.