A Reuters report suggests that completion of the Iranian-backed railway to Herat may still be a long way off. If completion will take “another 10 years” as suggested, this could mean that little if any construction has been done so far, or that the political environment is not right.
There seems to be a general lack of hard evidence of what has been actually built for the project so far.
The new railway will not run directly from Herat to Mashhad, instead it will run from Herat to Khaf, on the existing Islamic Republic of Iran Railways branch line to Sangan. This line offers connections to Mashhad.
Iranian engineer brings roads, rail to Afghan west
[Ali Tavakoli Khomeini], an Iranian engineer, has built some 400 km (250 miles) of highway and railroad in western Afghanistan over the last six years, paving the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.
His firm […] has just finished laying foundations for a railway that could one day link south and east Asia to the Middle East and Europe, reviving some of the most important ancient overland trade routes in the world.
It would reduce the cost of moving goods across the region to a fraction of that of highway transport, he said.
The project is still delayed. A final 58 km stretch to Herat province’s capital, Herat City, needs to be built by Afghanistan, according to the project’s terms, and has been held up.
Tavakoli predicts it could take up to another 10 years for the railroad to be completed, linking Herat to Iran’s northeastern city of Mashad and on to Turkey.
He won the tender to build the railroad from the Iranian government, after it pledged some $500 million of money for reconstruction projects in Afghanistan at a donor’s conference in Japan in 2002.
Source: Reuters, 2010-04-17