Uzbekistan to part-fund Mazar-i-Sharif – Herat railway

Following the international Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan which was held on 26-27 March 2018, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance said Uzbekistan had pledged to provide USD500m to part-fund the construction of a proposed 657 km extension of the Uzbekistan to Mazar-e-Sharif railway onwards to Herat.1 This would connect with the line under construction from Iran to Herat, providing a transit route from Central Asia, and potentially China, to Iran and Europe.

Komil Allamjonov, Press-Secretary to the President of Uzbekistan, Tweeted:

The Afghanistan Railway Authority estimates that the new line would cost USD1.8bn, and so the Afghan government is seeking additional funding from other countries.

AfRA head Mohammad Yama Shams told Tolo News that talks had begun with Iran and were ongoing with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, while China was also interested in investing in the project. A contractor could be selected in the near future, according to AfRA, and construction would take two years. AfRA estimates that Afghanistan would earn about USD40m a year from the line.

The quoted cost works out at USD1.8bn/657 km = 2.73m USD/km. The Hairatan – Mazar-i-Sharif line cost USD170m for 75 km2 or 2.27 USD/km, so the numbers are not dissimilar.

in his address to the international conference,3 Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said:

I have no doubt that in the long run peace on the Afghan soil will open up the new opportunities and bring real benefits to all states of the greater Eurasian continent. It will promote strengthening common security and stability, create favorable conditions for the construction of motorways and railroads, laying of pipelines, development of regional and trans-regional trade.
[…]
We are jointly promoting the implementation of another strategic project – extension of the currently operating Hairaton – Mazar-i-Sharif railway built by Uzbek specialists up to Herat.

This project will allow to make a real and practical contribution to reconstruction of Afghanistan’s economy, create new jobs and increase the transit potential of the country.

Launching the trans-Afghan transport-communication projects in close integration with other and not less significant regional projects such as Uzbekistan–Turkmenistan–Iran–Oman and Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan–China will also create all necessary conditions for the development of intercontinental transport corridors in almost all directions – from north to south and from east to west through the shortest route.

Fazel Fazly, senior aide to the President of Afghanistan, tweeted:

Eklil Hakimi, Afghanistan’s Minister of Finance said:

Development Economist Rafi Fazil commented:

Hameed Hakimi, Research Associate at Chatham House, pointed out:

References

Serhetabat – Torghundi railway (re)inauguration

Two ceremonies marking stages of work on the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline were held on 23 February 2018, one in Turkmenistan to mark completion of the Turkmen section of the pipeline, and the second in Afghanistan’s Herat province to mark the start work on the Afghan section.1

The events included a first train on the recently modernised railway between Serhetabat in Turkmenistan and the freight terminal just across the border at Torghundi in Afghanistan.2

Guests included the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov; President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani; Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi; and India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, Mobashar Jawed Akbar.

Goods expects to use the railway include oil products, food, industrial goods and construction materials.

Although described in some reports as “new” railway, the line dates from the Soviet area; it possibly opened in the in the mid to late 1950s, although I have been unable to confirm this. It has now been modernised by Turkmenistan’s national railway company at Turkmenistan’s expense as part of “comprehensive help and support to the people of Afghanistan”, following the 7th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan that took place in Ashgabat in mid-November 2017.3

The Afghan terminal is in Herat province, but is not in Herat city, which sometimes leads to confusion in news reports. There is also no consistency at all in the spelling of its name: Torghundi, Turghondi, Torghondi, Towraghondi, Turghundi, Torag Hundi, Turgundy, Tuurgundy…

References

  1. Construction of Afghan section of TAPI begins, 1TVNews.af, 23 February 2018
  2. Train Service Opens on New Turkmen–Afghan Railway: Serhetabat–Torghundi, State news agency of Turkmenistan – Turkmenistan today, 23 February 2018
  3. Train Service Opens on New Turkmen–Afghan Railway: Serhetabat–Torghundi, State news agency of Turkmenistan – Turkmenistan today, 23 February 2018

AfRA signs contracts for Herat and Balkh administrative buildings

Contracts for the construction of administrative buildings for the Herat and Balkh railway directorates were signed on 3 February 2018 by Afghanistan Railway Authority Director General & CEO Mohammad Yamma Shams and Mohsen Amin, Deputy Manager of State Corps.1

Announcing the contracts on 5 February 2018, AfRA said construction of the administrative building for the Herat railway directorate would cost AFN 45,927,337.38 (about €533 0002), while construction of the Balkh building would cost AFN 43,451,155.21 (about €504 0003). Work is scheduled to start this month and be completed within 10 months.

State Corps is a construction company which began by working on projects for the United State Army Corps of Engineers, and the expanded into the energy sector where it has woprked on high voltage transmission lines and other power distribution projects.4

Herat province includes the Turkmenistan – Towraghondi railway and the new line which is being built from Khaf in Iran. Balkh province is home to the railway from Uzbekistan to Hairatan and Mazar-i-Sharif.

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!)

Turkmenistan modernises Towraghondi rail line

The train comprosed the loco and 42 vehicles, including a coach carrying construction staff, track machines, cranes and other equipment and materials on flat wagons

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov visted Serhetabat in late November to launch the “construction of new railway” from the Turkmen border to Towraghondi in Afghanistan, reported Turkmenistan’s official news agency on 29 November 2017.1

A “ceremony of launching Serhetabat – Turgundy railway” is scheduled for the second half of February 2018, with Afghanistan’s President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani planning to attend.2

There already is a railway from Turkmenistan to Towraghondi, so this project might be an upgrade rather than a new line.

The President arrived by helicopter on the morning of the construction launch event, and made a speech highlighting the importance of developing transport links.

Important role is given to the involvement of entire potential of the railway sphere in the development of all branches of national economy and multimodal system of Turkmenistan. Therefore, the greatest attention is paid to the expansion and modernization of its infrastructure.

As an example, the Head of the State gave the railway Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran, Kerky (formerly Atamyrat) – Ymamnazar – Akina. These and other routes as well those that were planned to be built open new opportunities for fruitful relations between the countries of the region and for consolidation of their economic power.

We render comprehensive support and assistance to fraternal Afghan people and will continue putting all efforts that enhance the revival of the neighbouring state, the Head of the State said, having highlighted that recently, Turkmenistan hosted the VII Regional Economic Cooperation Conference of Afghanistan where important agreements of regional importance were reached.

Having highlighted the decision on increase of the volumes of energy supplied from Turkmenistan to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Head of the State directed Turkmen railway constructors, who commenced the construction of the roads to Turgundy by the request of Afghanistan.

Source: President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov launches the construction of railway Serhetabat – Turgundy, State News Agency of Turkmenistan – Turkmenistan Today, 29 November 2017

The President then watched a train leave Serhetabat for Towraghondi. The locomotive reportedly hauled 42 vehicles, including a coach carrying railway construction staff, track machines, cranes and other equipment and materials on flat wagons “loaded with all necessary for the construction of new interstate railway line.”

Turkmen staff are to build the railway and develop infrastructure to increase throughput at Towraghondi, enabling Afghanistan to import and export goods more efficiently and providing better links with transport corridors running east-west and north-south in Central Asia.

After watching the train depart, the President held a meeting with railway personnel who would work on the project. The railwaymen “expressed sincere gratitude to the head of state for tireless work for the happiness of the Turkmen people, for the policy of progressive reforms and reforms, for positive initiatives and initiatives that earned independent authority and recognition of the world community for the creation of all necessary conditions for quality work.”3

The President then flew to Mary airport by helicopter, before returning to Ashgabat.

References

  1. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov launches the construction of railway Serhetabat – Turgundy, The state news agency of Turkmenistan – Turkmenistan today, 29 November 2017
  2. Mohammed Ashraf Ghani to take part in the launch of construction of Afghan part of TAPI gas line, State News Agency of Turkmenistan, 23 December 2017
  3. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov launched the construction of the railway line Serhetabat-Turgundi, TDH/State Migration Service of Turkmenistan, 30 November 2017

Hairatan – Mazar-i-Sharif railway operating contract approved

On 18 December 2017 the National Procurement Commission approved nine contracts worth a total of more than 4.7bn afghanis,1 including one for the the maintenance, operation and management of the Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif railway.2

No further details are given. So far the line has been operated by the Sogdiana Trans subsidiary of Uzbekistan’s national railway UTY under an initial contract awarded in July 2011 and then a three-contract awarded March 2015.

42533-022: Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif Railway Project in Afghanistan