Tajikistan reportedly pulls out of TAT railway project

Conflicting media reports suggest that Tajikistan might, or might not, have pulled out of the Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Tajikistan railway project.

On 22 September Associated Press reported1 that ambassador to Uzbekistan Imom Sodiq Ashourboyzoda had said that Tajikistan had decided to indefinitely postpone the project. The decision had been taken because improved relations with Uzbekistan since the death of its President Karimov2 meant the project was no long feasible. The line would have enabled rail traffic to reach Tajikistan without transiting Uzbekistan.

AP reported that Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry said on 22 September that it has formally notified Tajikistan that it did not understand the statement.

The Diplomat published some analysis.3

However, on 25 September Aki Press said4 that Radio Ozodi had reported that a high-level official in the Ministry of Transport of Tajikistan had said work on the project was continuing, Tajik authorities had identified a route and Afghanistan should decide on the route of its section of the line. “We want to have an alternative to the railway running through Uzbekistan,” the transport ministry official reportedly stated.

References

Iran-Afghanistan railway to be launched by March 2019

The railway from Khaf in Iran to Herat province in Afghanistan will be inaugurated by the end of the Persian year [=March 20 2019], Iran’s Deputy Minister of Roads & Urban Development Kheirollah Khademi told local media on 19 July.1

As always, reports are unclear as to exactly how much of the line will open, whether it will be opened in phases and so on. This is not the first time there have been reports that it would open by the next Persian new year.

References

Tajikistan plans route of TAT railway

AzerNews reports that Tajikistan’s Ministry of Transport has provided the government with a draft route for the Tajik section of the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Turkmenistan railway.1 “The route of the Tajik section runs through the districts of J. Balkhi, Jaihun and Nizhny Pyanj”, the source said. “After the state commission approves the project, the feasibility study for the project will begin, that is, the length of the road, the number of bridges, etc. will be determined”.

Also known as Panji Poyon, Nizhny Pyanj is the location of a bridge over the river which forms the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan .

References

Towraghondi railway photos

Mirwais Nab, Ambassador of Afghanistan to Turkmenistan, tweets two photos of railway modernisation works at Towraghondi on the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border.

(As an aside, a priority for the project should be an agreement to settle on one romanised spelling of the place’s name!)

Route of the Khaf – Herat railway

An attempt to gather together some information on the construction phases of the Iran to Herat railway line. Has anyone got a good map of the route?

This should not be taken as definitive! Corrections would be very welcome.

Reported distances vary a bit between sources. Spellings vary a lot.

Iran – Herat railway project construction phases

Country Stage Route Length, km Funding Construction completed
Iran
76.8 km1
Stage 1 Khaf (Kahwaf, Khawaf, Khawaaf, Khauf, خواف) (Junction at 24 km on the Torbat-e Heydariyeh – Sangan line) – Sangan2 (serves mines?) 14? Iran September 20163
Stage 2 Sangan – Myothek – Khoshbeh – Iran/Afghanistan border at Shamtiq (Shematigh, Shmtygh, شمتیغ)
4
~62 km Iran planned for October 2017?
Afghanistan Stage 3 border at Shamtiq – Jono (Jonaw, Junaw) near the Islam Qala – Herat road to the north of Ghourian (Ghoryan, غوريان, Ghurian) 56 61.2 Iran 30 km October 2017, rest by March 2018?
Stage 4 Jono – Robat Paryan (Rabat Pariyan) – Herat (هرات‎‎) industrial area and Airport 63 Afghanistan, supported by Italy Construction not yet started as of October 2017?

Gauge

The line is 1 435 mm (4 ft 8½ in) standard gauge, like the Iranian rail network (as well as the networks in China and most of Europe).

This is not compatible with the 1520 mm (5 ft) broad gauge used in the former USSR, including the lines crossing into Afghanistan from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. However this is somewhat academic for the forseeable future as the lines into Afghanistan don’t connect with each other, and there are already other Turkmenistan – Iran rail routes which avoid Afghanistan altogether.

References

Iran – Afghanistan railway to be completed in 10 days?

Construction work on a segment of railroad project extended from Iran to Afghanistan in western Herat province will be finished in the next 10 days and then put into service, said the Iranian Ambassador [Mohammad Raza Bahrami] on Saturday [=14 October 2017].

Work on the 62-kilomteres long railway project from Iran’s border to Ghoriyan district of Herat was launched in 2007 at a cost of $75 million based on a grant from neighboring country. The project was scheduled to be finished in 2009.

[…]

Eng. Barzanoni, specialist of the railway project, said of all the 62 kilometres of the railway inside Afghan soil, about 33 kilometers railway was stretched and the rest would be completed in the next 10 days.

Officials say the Herat-Khauf 191-long railroad is being constructed in four segments. About 139 kilometer of the project is financed by Iran and the fourth segment cost is provided by the Afghanistan national budget.

Source: Work on Iran-Herat rail-line to complete till 2017 end. Storai Karimi, Pajhwok, 14 October 2017

Khyber Pass railway revival contemplated

The government of Pakistan is considering plans rebuild the Khyber Pass railway, reports the Express Tribune.

Pakistan Railways’ chairperson Perveen Agha along with other senior officials visited the track on Thursday. “The purpose of the visit is to start work on reviving and restoring the Peshawar-Torkham railway track,” said an official of the political administration. The political administration has already given shopkeepers and other encroachers along the railway track to vacate Pakistan Railway’s property within a week so that restoration work can begin.

Source: Govt mulling plans to restore historic railway track at Torkham, Express Tribune, 15 September 2017

Khaf – Herat railway MoU signed

Railways of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Managing Director Saeed Mohammadzadeh and Afghanistan Railway Authority’s Director General Mohammad Yamma Shams signed a memorandum of understanding in Tehran on 23 July 2017 covering the Khaf – Herat railway line which is currently under construction, as well as planned further co-operation.1

Mohammadzadeh reportedly said the first 30 km of the section of the line within Afghanistan is expected to be completed on 6 August 2017. The line will initially be used for freight including cement, petrol and oil,2 but passenger services are also envisaged for the near future. Iranian exports to Afghanistan by rail could reach five million tons/year. The rest of the part of the railway which is being built by Iran is predicted to be completed by March 2018.3

Shams said AfRA had made preparations for calling tenders to appoint an Iranian company to build the final section of the route, which it is responsible for. Mohammadzadeh said RAI would also train 96 AfRA staff in Iran.

References

  1. Iran, Afghanistan to link railway networks. Ebrahim Fallahi, Tehran Times, 24 July 2017
  2. Khaf-Herat railway to open within weeks, MEHR News Agency, 20 July 2017
  3. Iran-Afghanistan Rail Linkup With in 3 Weeks, Financial trubune, 22 July 2017