Five countries sign China to Iran railway agreement

A preliminary agreement for developing the proposed China – Kyrgyzstan – Tajikistan – Afghanistan – Iran railway was signed in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 8-9 December 2014.1

The meeting was chaired by Tajikistan’s First Deputy Minister of Transport, Sherali Gançalzoda, and included representatives of the transport ministries and authorities of the five countries. The attendees were updated on the current state of the railways, development plans, and the steps needed to connect the rail networks.

The Ministry of Transport statement doesn’t give much background (and is Tajik), but media reports say the route of the proposed line was agreed. Some reports seem to have got the list of places to be served a bit backwards, but they suggest the line would run from Kashgar in China to Herat in Afghanistan, then run on to Iran – presumably using the Khaf to Herat line which is currently under construction.2

Asia Plus reports that Iranian company Metra has previously carried out a feasibility study for construction of the 392 km Tajik section of the proposed railway, using US$1m of aid.3 4

There is no mention of gauge in any of the reports. The former Soviet countries and the small amount of railway in Afghanistan use 1520 mm broad gauge, but Iran and China both use standard gauge, and China seems to like building railways to standard gauge even in metre/1067 mm gauge regions of Africa. There is also no mention of a commitment to funding.

Update: Wahid Waissi, Director-General of Economic Cooperation at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirms “it would be 1435 but two months time given for Kyrgyz to decide.”5

Last month the presidents of Tajikistan and China met and discussed “the prospects of construction of railway China-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran-Persian Gulf”,6 and the Ministry of Finance of Tajikistan and Export-Import Bank of China signed an agreement on preferential credit for construction of the 40.7 km Vahdat – Yovon section of the Dushanbe – Qurghonteppa line by 2016. 7

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