Hairatan railway photos

A couple of photographs of Hairatan which the Asian Development Bank has uploaded to Flickr. They are dated 27 August 2011 – and I think they might have the captions the wrong way round.

Rail way
“A private wagon enters from Uzbekistan to the border of Afghanistan Hiaratan in the new rail way line.”

Rail way
“Main station of Rail way in Hairatan border between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan new rail way line. “

Government railways department to be formed

According to the 17 October 2011 Ministry of Mines statement which said MCC is to commission a Chinese firm to undertake surveys for railways from Kabul to Torkham and the Hayratan line, Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani “stressed that the creations of most of railways are related to mining projects therefore for the time being all of railways projects will be related to the Ministry of Mines“.1

However, on 19 October 2011 a US$222m grant agreement was signed in Kabul by Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal and the Asian Development Bank’s Country Director Robert Rinker.2 The Minister of Finance said $189m of this was for road projects, according to a news report, while the rest would be used “to establish an independent railways department”. This will be “within the framework of the Ministry of Public Works, which will supervise the construction of rail tracks.”3

The Deputy Public Works Minister, Eng Ahmad Shah Waheed, said a commission led by the presidential advisor on economics affairs and comprising representatives from the ministries of Public Works, Finance, Economy and Commerce has been set up “to evolve a mechanism for the railways department”.

So is there a risk of a turf war between the ministries of Mines and Public Works? I’ve been led to believe that the Minister of Mines is a powerful figure, as mining rights could potentially generate significant income for a country which lacks many source of revenue.

  1. Technical research for Kabul-Mazir and Kabul-Torkham railways begins soon, Ministry of Mines, dated 17 October 2011, published 18 October 2011
  2. ADB Provides $US 222 Million for Roads Construction in Afghanistan, Ministry of Finance, 19 October 2011
  3. ADB to give $222mn for roads, rail tracks to Afghanistan, News Network International, 20 October 2011

Mazar-i-Sharif to Andkhoy railway plans

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.

ADB funding for Andkhoy extension

The Asian Development Bank approved a US$754m multitranche financing facility “to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered road and rail network” on 20 September 2011.

The money will be used to upgrade 578 km of roads and to fund “construction of new facilities to complement the recently completed train line connecting the northern hub of Mazar-e-Sharif and Uzbekistan.” The 75 km railway will be extended 225 km west, with “new tracks and stations between Mazar-e-Sharif and Andkhoy”.

There is a $33m cofinancing grant from the Afghanistan Infrastructure Trust Fund, while “contributions from Japan and the United Kingdom, will be administered by ADB.”

According to ADB, Afghanistan’s road network “is incomplete, mostly in bad shape, and the railway network is in its infancy”.1

“Infrastructure links the new mineral centers to markets, creates jobs, improves trade, and—perhaps most importantly—provides Afghans with a sense of hope for the future,” said Juan Miranda, ADB’s Director General for Central and West Asia. “With the development of modern road, rail and energy networks, Afghanistan is poised to reap the benefits of its strategic location and become a pivotal crossroads for trade and commerce in the region.”2

Updates will probably appear on ADB’s 44482: Transport Network Development Investment Program webpage.

There is a photo on the ADB website showing some hopper wagons dropping ballast onto the tracks, presumably during construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif line.

ADB funding more studies

On 16 June 2010 Asian Development Bank approved a further USD700 000 from its Technical Assistance Special Fund for:

A study on railway development for Afghanistan completed for the following routes: (i) From Hairatan at the border with Uzbekistan to Heart [Herat] in the west, via Mazar-e-Sharif; (ii) from Shirkhan Bendar at the border with Tajikistan, via Kunduz to Naibabad [which is on the line under construction from Hayratan] joining Mazar-e-Sharif to Heart; (iii) from Torkham at the border with Pakistan to Jalalabad; and (iv) Spainboldak at the border with Pakistan to Kandahar.

Source: Railway Development Study (Supplementary) : Afghani., Is Rep. of, 2010-06-16

Taking it literally, this seems to miss out the link needed from Chaman in Pakistan over the border to Spin Boldak in Afghanistan.

US ambassador at Hayratan

Hairatan Rail Line
U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry joined the president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Minister of Finance, Minister of Mines, Minister of Transportation and Civil Aviation, and fellow Ambassadors from Japan, Finland, and Uzbekistan at a ribbon-cutting ceremony inaugurating the Hairatan Rail Line. Hairatan is located in the Balk Provience. This rail link is the first phase of a larger rail network planned for the country, including links to Herat, Tajikistan and Pakistan, and improves connectivity and increase trade throughout the region, supporting growth and cutting poverty.
Source: American Embassy Kabul on Flickr

May 25, 2010: U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry Remarks at Hairatan Rail Line Ceremony

On May 25, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry joined the president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Minister of Finance, Minister of Mines, Minister of Transportation and Civil Aviation, and fellow Ambassadors from Japan, Finland, and Uzbekistan at a ribbon-cutting ceremony inaugurating the Hairatan Rail Line. The United States and Japan are the two largest shareholders in ADB. An ADB grant supports the construction of a 75 km railway line between Hairatan, on the border with Uzbekistan, and Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan’s second largest commercial center. The project will also upgrade Hairatan station yard, build a transshipment terminal, and prepare a railway sector plan. ADB’s grant covers 97% of the total project cost of $170 million, with the Government contributing $5 million. This rail link is the first phase of a larger rail network planned for the country, including links to Herat, Tajikistan and Pakistan, and improves connectivity and increase trade throughout the region, supporting growth and cutting poverty. The new rail line will help remove the major physical bottlenecks that have formed at the border, thereby quadrupling capacity and boosting regional trade.

The Ambassador’s remark’s at the ceremony inaugurating the rail line follow:

Remarks to ADB Ceremony Audience

• Thank you Governor Atta, President Kuroda, and Ministers Zakhilwal and Shahrani.

• The United States and Japan are the two largest shareholders in the Asian Development Bank. We, along with other ADB member nations represented here today have followed this Hairatan Rail Project grant funding closely from its genesis and have supported it strongly via our representation on the ADB’s Board of Directors.

• I am very pleased to see the project reach this point, with construction begun and an end-date planned in advance of the December 2010 completion target. It is my sincere hope to return to Balkh province with President Karzai and others on this stage soon to celebrate the completion of this signature infrastructure project.

• The United States, the ADB, and other members of the international donor community recognized early on that the rehabilitation and expansion of Afghanistan’s transportation infrastructure — roads, airports, and now rail – were a vital component of the Afghan National Development Strategy.

• ADB President Kuroda and others have spoken to you about the economic opportunity and promise that this project offers to Balkh province, to Afghanistan’s northern region, and to the nation as a whole. This is true and very important.

• Following the successful efforts of the Afghan Government, in cooperation with international donor community and international investors, to rebuild other key components of Afghanistan’s basic infrastructure — including the North East Power System, all but a small remaining portion of the Ring Road, and the nation’s world-class telecommunications infrastructure — what the project represents to me is yet another affirmation that large and complex infrastructure projects supported by Afghanistan’s national and provincial governments can be successfully planned and executed. This is part of the process of restoring peace and prosperity to this great Nation.

• In addition to these critical infrastructure projects, the U.S. Embassy has plans to deploy mentors to the Mazar, who will mentor at both the EU customs facility in Haraitan and the Inland Customs Depot. At the request of the Customs Director of Sher Khan Bandar, our Border Management Task Force has began the process of acquiring land at Sher Khan Bandar (SKB), to facilitate deployment of mentors at the Kunduz Inland Customs Depot, and the SKB Border Crossing Point.

• The promise that this Hairatan rail link can be extended east to Kunduz and west to Herat offers hope to visionaries like Minister Zakhiwal and Minister Shahrani — and to all Afghan citizens — that Afghanistan can once again resume its place as a Silk Road crossroads and regional transportation hub. This is all reason celebrate this important day.

Source: Embassy of the United States, Kabul, Afghanistan 2010-05-25