Atamyrat to Afghanistan railway plan

On July 12 the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported a plan for the construction of a new railway to Afghanistan, starting from Atamurat (formerly Kerki) in eastern Turkmenistan.

The project was discussed at the first meeting of the snappily-titled intergovernmental Turkmen-Afghani commission for trade and economic and technical co-operation, which was held in Ashgabat this month.

Intergovernmental Turkmen-Afghani commission meets in Ashgabat

The opportunities for further co-operation in energy industry and the sphere of transport and communication including railway and motor transport were a focus of the talks. It was noted that by concerting efforts Turkmenistan and Afghanistan occupying the favourable geographical position could ensure transit freight traffic across their territories to the north-south and the east-west. In this regard the Turkmen partners expressed the willingness to connect the national railway networks of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. In particular, Turkmenistan intended to finance the construction of a branch line from Turkmen town of Atamurat to the Turkmen-Afghan border that would give Afghanistan an outlet to other countries of the region.

Atamurat/Atamyrat was formerly called Kerki, until the previous president (of personality cult fame) renamed it in honour of his father, who had been born there. While Afghanistan doesn’t really have a “national railway network” yet, the 1520 mm gauge Turkmen line from Turkmenabat to Atamyrat opened in 1999, providing a link between two parts of the Turkmen network to eliminate the need to go round through Boukhara in Uzbekistan.

Turkmentel – 2007 explains:

Owing to the thought over, far-sighted and steady decisions of the First President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Turkmenbashy the Great for years of independence the railway branch became one of priority directions in the field of communications and has achieved the new high level of development.

In the end of 1999 construction of railway Turkmenabat-Atamyrat by extention of 203 km is completed. This branch line, having connected five regional centers of Lebap area with the city of Turkmenabat, and also with capital Ashgabat, passes on the left coast of Amu Darya river.

Supermap might help explain the arrangement of railways in Turkmenistan.

Searching Google Earth, this could well be the station at Atamyrat, with a line heading off south then looping round towards the construction site for a bridge over the Amu Darya (which seems to have run into political complications during construction).

View Larger Map

The railway appears to carry some Afghan traffic at present, presumably transhipped to or from road transport (or maybe barge?):
Text of report by Turkmen newspaper Neytralnyy Turkmenistan on 26 January 2007.

A [railway] loading station for cargo transported via the Turkmenabat-Atamyrat railway line [in eastern Turkmenistan] has been put into operation. Weighing facilities and a set of loading and unloading equipment are located on the station’s territory, which measures 80,500 sq m.

A network of storage facilities is being installed at the station as well. Some of them are designed for short-term storage of cargo from neighbouring Afghanistan. The others will be used for goods from economic entities in the Gulustan newly-developed desert area and along the Garagum canal.

Turkmenistan already has a short cross-border railway link to Towraghondi in Afghanistan.

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