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Iran ‘ready to connect Khaf – Herat railway to Mazar-i-Sharif’

Tehran, Jan 19, IRNA – Iranian Minister of Road and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami referred to sustainable development as Iran’s strategy in the region, saying Iran is ready to connect Khaf-Herat railway to Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of training Afghanistan railway staff, Eslami said Iran’s development is intertwined with that of its neighbors.

More…

Source: Minister: Iran ready to build Herat- Mazar-i-Sharif railway, Islamic Republic News Agency, 19 January 2021

Video and photos of the Aqina – Andkhoy railway

(Google translation of the caption)
Construction of the Aqina-Andkhoy railway has been completed and will be inaugurated by Afghan and Turkmen officials in the near future. Agineh-Andkhoy railway is 30 km long.
The Railway Authority says the construction of the Aqina-Andkhoy railway has cost $30 million, which has been covered by the department’s development budget.
The construction project of Aqineh-Andkhoy railway includes a railway station, a connecting road, a loading and unloading place, a freight car station and a wall.

Construction of Herat railway Stage 4 Phase 1 launched

As part of the opening ceremonies for the first three stages of the railway from Iran, Mohammad Yama Shams, head of the Afghanistan Railway Authority, officially launched construction of Stage 4 Phase 1 of the route.1 This will run for 43 km from Rozanak to Robat Paryan.

Attendees included the Governor of Herat, various officials and elders.

A plaque mentions Integra Construction KZ, a Kazakh railway contractor which signed a contract to build this Section 4 Phase 1 of the line on 12 December 2019. The 43 km Phase 1 was to be be built in 16 months at cost of US$58.5m, funded by the government of Afghanistan. It will pass through the Ghorian, Zenda Jan and Enjeel districts and to reach Rabat Paryan.2

Italy will provide a long-term loan to finance the future Stage 4 Phase 2, which will add a further 44 km and take the line to Herat airport.

References

  1. Afghanistan Railway Authority post on Facebook, 12:35 on 10 December 2020
  2. First Phase, Section Four of Khwaf-Herat Railway Project Signed, president.gov.af, 12 December 2019

First freight train from Iran to Afghanistan

A trial freight train on 2 December 2020 delivered 500 tonnes of cement on the new railway which runs from Khaf in Iran as far as a station at Rosnak (Rahzanak, روزنک) in Afghanistan’s Herat province.1

A passenger train also ran from Iran to bring officials to and from a meeting with their Afghan counterparts.

Rosnak is on the Islam Qala to Herat road to the north of Ghourian (Ghoryan, غوريان, Ghurian). Construction works can be seen in Bing maps (but not Google Maps). Jono (Jonaw, Junaw) has been mentioned previously as a station; I’m not sure whether this is referring to the same place.2

The new railway is in effect an extension of the Iranian rail network across the border. After many years of proposals, construction officially began in Iran on 29 July 2006. The line is being built in four stages, with the latest section being the 62 km stage 3, and completion of the project has taken a lot longer than was envisaged.

An official opening ceremony for the first three sections of the Khaf to Herat railway is planned for 10 December 2020.

Construction of the fourth stage is being planned, with work to be undertaken in two phases with the first running to Robat Paryan and the second to Herat airport.

The Afghanistan Railway Authority said the line is one of the most important regional connectivity projects, as it will provide the land-locked country with a link to ports and to the rail networks of Iran, Turkey and Europe. Freight traffic is predicted to be around two million tonnes a year and include oil, construction materials and food.

AfRA said the operation of a passenger service is also being considered. Studies when work on the line began estimated that passenger traffic could reach 321 000 passengers/year, and freight traffic 6·8 million tonnes/year.3

Place names

The romanised spelling of the various place names varies quite a bit. If you have strong views on the “correct” versions, now is the time to try to get a standard established!

A note on gauges

The new Iran to Herat railway is 1435 mm (4 ft 8½ in) gauge. Known as “standard gauge”, this is the nost widely used gauge in the world and is found in Iran, Turkey, most of the Middle East, China and most of Europe (except the former USSR, Finland, Iberia and Ireland).

The other railways into Afghanistan from Uzbekistan (1 line) and Turkmenistan (2 lines) use the 1520 mm (5 ft) broad gauge, commonly called “Russian gauge”, which is used instead of 1435 mm in the former USSR, Finland and Mongolia. Pakistan uses the even broader “Indian gauge” of 1676 mm (5 ft 6in), although the network does not reach Afghanistan.

This means that in the event of a hypothetical railway line being built from Herat to Torghundi (for Turkmenistan) or Mazar-i-Sharif (to connect with the line from Uzbekistan) there would have to be a break of gauge somewhere. While gauge-changing trains exist, for most freight you may as well just transfer containers between ordinary wagons of different gauges, which is what happens every day on the border between China and the 1520 mm gauge region.

References

  1. Reported on the Afghanistan Railway Authority’s Facebook page, 2 December 2020. Also BBC News report, اولین قطار حامل بار از ایران وارد افغانستان شد, 2 December 2020
  2. The Iran-Afghanistan border area is not shown in much detail by the free online mapping and aerial photography services that I’ve found…
  3. Opening up Afghan trade route to Iran, Murray Hughes, Railway Gazette International, January 2008

Test train carries officials from Iran to Afghanistan

A test train has carried officials from Iran and Afghanistan on the 62 km third section of the railway under construction from Khaf in Iran to Afghanistan’s Herat province.1

The train on 28 October 2020 comprised MAPNA/Siemens Safir/Iranrunner diesel locomotive2 number 1540 and two coaches. It ran from Iran as far as Rosank(?) station in Herat province, returning to Iran again in the evening.

Officials from bth countries inspected the line, stations and other installations on the line, which forms the third section of the long-running Khaf – Herat railway project and is expected to be officially opened in the near future.3

The Afghanistan Railway Authority said the new railway would provide the country with access to Iran’s railway network and sea ports, as well as to the railway networks of Turkey and Europe. This would enable Afghanistan merchants to export goods quickly, safely and at a low cost.

(Photos: Afghanistan Railway Authority)

  1. Afghanistan Railway Authority Facebook post, 28 October 2020
  2. See Manufacture of 150 Diesel-Electric Locomotives, MAPNA
  3. Afghanistan Railway Authority Facebook post, 28 October 2020

Aqina – Andkhoy railway construction

Construction of the 30 km railway extension to Andkhoy from Aqina on Afghanistan’s border with Turkmenistan.

Photos of the Iran to Herat railway project

Some photos of the railway under construction between Iran and Herat province.

And some older photos:

Turkmenistan and Afghanistan sign railway agreements

President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani made an official visit to Turkmenistan at the invitation of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov on 21 February 2019.

As part of the visit, an MoU was signed for Turkmenistan to build the 30 km railway extension from Aqina, on the border, to Andkhoy, the first significant place inside Afghanistan.1 Agreements were also reached for the regulation of cross-border rail traffic, while the possibility of building a Towraghondi to Herat railway is to be studied.

Dwelling on the key areas of economic cooperation, the heads of state specifically focused on the transport and communications sphere. […] The Presidents highly commended the finalization of works and commissioning of the Serhetabat–Torghundi and Kerki–Imamnazar railway networks, and the Rabat–Kashan–Kalai-nau power line.2

[Ghani] noted the presence of big opportunities in different directions of cooperation including in railway transport and communication, having expressed the confidence that Afghan part would also take part in the construction of the railroads of international importance.

In this context, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani highlighted the importance of the initiative about the continuation of Serhetabat – Turgundy railroad to Herat, having assured that Afghan side would make relative work for the implementation of this project.
[…]
Speaking about the partnership in railway sphere, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani noted the future of continuation of construction of Kerky – Ymamnazar – Akina railroad as well as continuation of Serhetabat – Turgundy railroad to Herat.3

During the visit

Afghanistan Railway Authority (ARA) and Ministry of Transpiration and Communication of Turkmenistan, in the presence of presidents of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, singed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for construction of railway from Aaqina port to Andkhoy district. This project will be designed and constructed with the length of 30 km from Aaqina railway’s station to Andkhoy railway’s station by technical facilities and professional experts of Turkmenistan’s railway.

It is worth mention that based on the pre-signed contract between the railway authorities of both countries, construction of 10 km new railway for development of Aaqina railway’s station is in progress. Also during the official trip of the president of Afghanistan and containment delegation to Turkmenistan, two other agreements signed between railway authorities of both countries for administration and organizing of Tor Ghondai port railway’s affairs. The parties as well agreed to jointly assess extension possibility of railway from Sarhadabad-Tor Ghondi to Herat city.4

The lines in question are 1520 mm gauge, as with the route from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan.

An “Agreement on International Railway Transit Point on Turkmen – Afghan State border” was signed “on the government level”, and regulations for the organisation of railway communications between Serhetabat and Turgundy [Towraghondi, etc] adopted.5