War and reconstruction

Previous page: Soviet rail extensions across the border

In 1983 the Soviet-backed Afghan Government contacted the Economic & Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) seeking financial and technical assistance for a rail network.1

This was to link Kabul, Kandahar and Herat. Pakistan would be reached by a line from Kandahar to Chaman, and there would be a branch from Herat to Islam Qala on the Iranian border. However the governments of Pakistan and Iran did not recognise the existing Afghan regime. Surveys drawn up by a Franco-German consortium in 1928 were presented. ESCAP sent two missions, including railway experts, to Afghanistan.

Foreign advice

In 1992 plans were announced for Pakistan Railways engineers to survey a possible 800 km route from Pakistan to Tajikistan, via Jalalabad and Kabul.2 PR’s General Manager was reported in the newspaper Dawn as saying it was in Pakistan’s national interest to establish links with the recently independent central Asia republics via Afghanistan rather than via Iran.

In 1999 the Bakhtar news agency in Kabul3 told the BBC that a Canadian team had held talks in Kabul with the Construction Minister and other officials regarding the construction of airports, roads, and railways. Bakhtar‘s Muhammad Naeem said a Canadian team would carry out a survey and feasibility study.

Re-opening for aid

On 9 December 2001 Uzbekistan re-opened the Friendship Bridge across the River Amu-Darya.4 A train with about 15 vans of flour entered Afghanistan on 9 December 2001.5

Plans revived

Proposals to revive the 1970s railway schemes were put forward at the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan held in Tokyo in January 2002.6

The 1810 km railway network would start at the Iranian border near Herat (presumably Islam Qala), with a line running to Kandahar. From Kandahar it would turn north into the mountains, passing copper mines in Logar province to reach Kabul. A branch would serve iron ore mines northwest of Kabul near Bamiyan. From Kandahar a branch would run to Chaman, linking with the Pakistan Railways network.7

"We can’t say what it would cost now because we haven’t done an up to date feasibility study yet" Afghanistan’s Deputy Planning Minster Abdul Salam told Reuters. "The world is coming together now and we want to be part of this world".

Next page: Iran to Herat


  1. Rail links with Pakistan and Iran, Modern Railways, April 1983, quoted at University of York
  2. Rail survey in Afghanistan, Modern Railways, November 1992, quoted at Institute of Railway Studies, York.
  3. Afghanonlineforum.com
  4. Uzbek bridge opens for aid to Afghanistan. Yahoo.com 2002-12-09
  5. Breakthrough in Afghan aid effort, BBC News, 2001-12-09
  6. Russian-language news report from http://www.mps.ru 2002-01-22
  7. Afghan rail plan among proposals for donors. CNN/Reuters, 2002-01-21

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