Some more details are emerging about the plan for a east-west railway, which would start at the terminus of the recently-completed line to Naiababad east of Mazar-i-Sharif, and run across northern Afghanistan to Andkhoy.
The Asian Development Bank approved a US$754m multi-tranche financing facility “to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered road and rail network” on 20 September 2011, and this includes funding for the project; unofficial sources say up to US$300m could be allocated to the railway project, and there is a hope that other sources of funding will be available.
Studies are still to be undertaken, however it is likely that 1520 mm (“Russian”) gauge will be adopted for compatibility with the existing line from Uzbekistan and the 126 (or possible 162) km line which the Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is proposing from Atamyrat across to the Aqina border crossing and Andkvoy; media reports say work on this line could begin in 2012.
Construction of the east-west line could begin in 2013. The contract to build the Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif line was awarded to Uzbek national railway UTY without a competition, because it was believed that given conditions in Afghanistan, the lack of a local rail industry and the reliance on a physical connection to Uzbekistan there was little prospect of anyone else with the right skills and experience bidding. However this second stage will put out to an open tender.
As with the existing line, the focus is again on the freight market.
In the longer term a further extension from Andkhoy to Herat is envisaged if/when Iran completes its line to Herat. This will presumably create a break-of-gauge at Herat, which is probably a sensible place to have one.