“Not viable, economically or technically”

A somewhat pessimistic view…

Iran-Afghanistan railway ‘on agenda’

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tuesday that the construction of a railway between the Iranian city of Khaf and the Afghan city of Herat was being discussed, according to the Tehran-based Press TV.


Tehran faces many difficulties in extending this railway farther than Herat, said Zhou Rong, an Islamabad-based researcher on Central and South Asian issues.

“Afghanistan is still at war, and if this railway is extended to Tajikistan, it must run through the Pashtun areas controlled by the anti-Iran Taliban,” Zhou said. “The security costs would be very high.”

It’s no more than a “political will” to build a railway to link Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Zhou said, adding that the idea is “not viable, economically or technically.”

Source: Global Times, 2010-11-17

One thought on ““Not viable, economically or technically”

  1. I must agree with Zhou Rong, the idea of Iran building a railroad beyond Herat City in Afghanistan (anytime soon anyway) is: “not viable, economically or technically.”

    Railroads are built for military, political, and/or commercial reasons. Right now an Iranian supported railroad in Afghanistan, beyond Herat City, cannot be justified by Iran (or anyone else) on any of these grounds. The key problem for the idea is that north-south connections in Central Asia already exist, through Turkmenistan. Furthermore, those connections are due to be improved in the very near future. A line from Herat to Northern Afghanistan would be a ‘redundant extra’ in the region.

    To be more specific, there are two railroads currently being discussed for Northern Afghanistan. First is a line from Atamurat (a.k.a. Kerki) in Terkmenistan, to Andkhoy in Afghanistan. The second line would be an all Afghan line from Mazar-i-Sharif to Andkhoy. Assuming these two lines are built, Afghan cities from Mazar-i-Sharif to Andkhoy will have north and south access to the rest of Central Asia, including Iran, through Turkmenistan. In that environment, an Iranian supported line from Iran to Andkhoy, through Herat City, would not get a lot of business for any of the three reasons listed above.

    This realization should seal the fate of ‘standard gauge’ lines in Northern Afghanistan, for the time being. If there is no line coming up from Iran, building any railroad in Northern Afghanistan to anything other than 1520 mm gauge would make it completely useless. However, it is still possible that standard gauge may eventually come to Northern Afghanistan, and for that reason the new line from Mazar-i-Sharif to Andkhoy ought to be built in such a way that it could be switched from 1520 mm gauge to standard gauge fairly quickly and easily.

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