Afghanistan National Railway Plan at the CAREC Railway Working Group

The First Meeting of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation organisation’s Railway Working Group was held on Tokyo on 24-26 November 2015. The CAREC Railway Working Group was formed after the 14th CAREC Transport Sector Coordinating Committee Meeting which was held in Ulaanbaatar on 28-29 April 2015, and aims to guide the development of a short and medium-term railway strategy for the CAREC region.

Afghanistan National Railway Plan map

The presentations from the meeting can be downloaded from the CAREC website, and have a lot of interesting information about railways in the CAREC member countries.

Day 1 featured a presentation on the Afghanistan National Railway Plan and Way Forward by Mohammad Yamma Shams, Director General & Chief Executive Officer of the Afghanistan Railway Authority. This sets out current thinking under AfRA’s Afghanistan National Railway Plan, and the status of the various proposals for a 5500 km network.

Tajikistan trains Afghanistan Railway Authority staff

Tajikistan provides training to the staff of Afghanistan Railway Authority

According to (100 days) work plan of the ministry and railway department of Afghanistan, Tajikistan’s Ministry of Transport provides vocational trainings for the staff of Railway department.

Recently for the improvement of technical & professional capacity of staff, a short-term training program for three months provided to 30 personnel of Railway Authority in Tajikistan. The training is mostly over the operation and maintenance of railway. Other technical and vocational trainings has already been provided by Iran & China.

Railway Authority was created within the Ministry of Public Works in 1391 [=AD 2012] and the ministry is responsible to facilitate the formation as well as an independent organization Synchronized with the formation of this department, 106 km of the railways starting from Hairatan Port to Mazar-e-Sharif been constructed and every year millions tones of goods transported through this railway.

Railway’s Department have lots of infrastructure projects and with the implementation of these projects, fundamental changes will be executed in transportation system.

Source: Ministry of Public Works, 13 October 2015

Advisor to AfRA Director-General and CEO

Student completes thesis in Afghanistan

A University of Canterbury student who has just graduated with a commerce degree completed much of his thesis in Afghanistan, avoiding suicide bombings and kidnappings.

Najib Hedayatullah gives his own insight of what he had to face along his journey of gaining a Master of Commerce from the University of Canterbury. Gaining his masters degree is a great achievement, especially given the challenges he faced writing it up from Kabul.

Najib was a refugee and came to Christchurch from Afghanistan as a teenage refugee and had to make his own way. His supervisor Associate Professor Colleen Mills says Najib went from repeatedly failing to get a bachelors degree to achieving an honours degree then a masters.

[…]

“As I was analysing data for my thesis Afghanistan was going through elections which was an opportunity for my home country to head down a path of stability and prosperity. I had the choice of staying in peaceful Christchurch and continue my research or to go to Kabul and participate in the historical and transformational event. With my wife and two children – eight months and two years old ­ – I became part of a movement which assisted the nation in taking on democracy.

“I now have a job as advisor to the director-general and the chief executive of the Afghanistan Railway Authority. I am also the project manager of a $20 million project for the management, operation, maintenance and training of people involved in the Afghanistan rail line.

“During my stay in Kabul and in the course of my University of Canterbury research analysis I faced many problems such as no electricity. Billions of dollars of aid poured into Afghanistan but because of widespread corruption, Afghanistan still does not have good electricity generating plants. They import electricity from the neighbouring counties. Security was another challenge, suicide bombings and kidnappings were major worries.

“Every morning when I was leaving home I was not sure if I would get back home alive. So the above factors had put me under enormous mental pressure, but when I was thinking why I was in that country it was worth it.

“Although my family and I are now back living in Christchurch I am going back to Afghanistan to assist technocrats following the election and continue my work in assisting Afghanistan building its first railway network of 6200km.

According to the strategic plan of the new government this network will be the backbone for turning Afghanistan to a transportation hub linking China to the Middle East and Europe and linking central Asian states to southern Asian countries.

“As I enter a business career, based in Christchurch, I am grateful to the University of Canterbury and staff who have been fantastic for helping me achieve my goals.”

Source: Student completes thesis in Afghanistan, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 29 April 2015

Operations and maintenance contract signed

The Afghanistan Railway Authority (AfRA) executed and officially singed a new Operation and Maintenance (O&M)

The Afghanistan Railway Authority (AfRA) executed and officially singed a new Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Contract for the Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif railway line on 15th of March 2015, with the Operator “SE Sogdiana Trans” of the Republic of Uzbekistan. This new contract is called MOMTC (expires on 4 December 2017) and will provide the following four services: Management, Operation & Infrastructure Maintenance of the line and will provide a comprehensive, theoretical and practical Training for the AfRA’s personnel.

Hairatan on the border with Uzbekistan serves as gateway for half of Afghanistan’s external trade, while Mazar-e-Sharif is Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city and major trading center in the north. The construction of this railway line of 75Km was completed in 2011 and since then the operation and maintenance work has been going on. During each operation year, about 2.5 million tons of goods were transported on the Hairatan – Mazar-e-Sharif railway line, strengthening the local economy, increasing regional trade, promoting regional cooperation, and helping Afghanistan begin to redefine its role in the region.

The Hairatan – Mazar-e-Sharif railway line has brought positive economic effects since it was built. The lower transport cost have reduced the price of goods and have resulted in higher quality goods coming into the country. More than 7 million people have benefited from this line through jobs and increased trade. This has included freight operators, traders, businesses, and the local communities.

Having an efficient, safe, and reliable railway transport network operating in northern Afghanistan has shown an overall employment growth of over 10% per year since 2010. About 1,200 people are currently employed in logistics and unloading operations, while more jobs are expected to merge in logistics services at railroad stations.

This railway line forms part of the Transport Corridors 3 & 6 of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), connecting the Central Asia to the South Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East. At a later stage, this railway network will be extended to Herat in the West via Sheberghan – Andkhoy – Aqina with connection to Turkmenistan and Tajikistan in the east via Kunduz – Sherkhan Bandar, which is part of another project called (Northern Afghanistan Railway Project).

Source: Afghanistan Railway Authority, 24 March 2015

EU grant for the Afghanistan Railway Authority

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved the administration of a European Union (EU) grant for the Transport Network Development Investment Program. The EU grant will help upgrade the Afghanistan Railway Authority and support efficiency improvements for traffic moving along CAREC Corridors 5 and 6 in Afghanistan, and across key cross border points as part of the fourth tranche of financing for the program. The program, which was approved in 2011, is supporting infrastructure upgrades and improved sector governance to strengthen access to domestic and international markets, which in turn will support increased trade, job creation and economic growth.

Amount
$109 million grant from ADB’s concessional Asian Development Fund. Cofinancing grant of up to $21 million equivalent from the EU, administered by ADB.

Source: Afghanistan – Transport Network Program Administration of Grant New Briefs, Asian Development Bank, 12 December 2014

Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif railway management contracts planned

Afghanistan Reconstruction & Development Services has published the Afghanistan Railway Authority’s invitation for expressions of interest in three contracts covering the operation, maintenance and management of the Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif railway.

Responses from “experienced, high caliber and competent national and international rail operating, maintenance and management companies” should be submitted to the Ministry of Public Works by 5:00 pm local time on 15 November 2014.

Soliciting expressions of interest is the first step of a possible bidding process. Evaluation would be conducted internally within AfRA/MPW according to Afghan procurement law and procedures. Companies which are shortlisted would be invited to submit their proposals.

The invitation document says the Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif railway comprises 75 km of main line and 63 km of loop line, a total of 138 km, which “went into operation in December 2011 and has been successfully operated, maintained and managed.”

The performance-based operation and maintenance services would include but not be limited to:

  • Quantification of assets and characteristics of the railway system
  • Required Operations services
  • Required Infrastructure Maintenance services
  • Required Management services
  • Technical specifications and standards
  • Necessary equipment for proactive for operations and maintenance
  • Performance standards, including benchmarks of operational, rolling stock, and infrastructure asset maintenance; targets of goods to be transported per year; maintenance of infrastructure; correction of defective maintenance; type and availability of trains; procedures for delays, accidents, and incidents; and locomotive and wagon maintenance.
  • Outline of the revenue account for revenue deposits, maintained by the operator and transferred at fixed intervals to the owner
  • Quality management to meet best industry standards of O&M
  • Performance securities and insurance
  • Format of a summary of usage report to record operator activities performed
  • Establishment of an operating account, outlining costs and revenues
  • Environmental management plan
  • Description of force majeure events, conditions, or circumstances
  • Training for staff on O&M
  • Dispute resolution mechanism

Interested companies should demonstrate:

  1. 10 Years Similar experience in Rail operations, Management and Maintenance of 1520 mm and/or 1435 mm gauges railway lines.
  2. Reasonable and adequate financial resources
  3. Regional experience and joint-venture with national firms is plus
  4. Human resource capacity to operate, manage and carry out infrastructure maintenance
  5. Adequate machinery, rolling-stock, tools and equipment
  6. Good performance record
  7. Companies are advised to provide only materials that are specific to the proposed service as to avoid submitting generic promotional material.

The call for expression of interest also gives AfRA’s description of itself:

Afghanistan Railway Authority (AfRA) is the governing body for all railway planning, development, network, operations and maintenance in Afghanistan.

Based on our vision of long-term rail development, we will ensure all rail stakeholders are, committed to the safety of employees, customers and the public. We feel that a progressive railway network can be operated with integrity, having concern and consideration for our neighbors, the local community, and the environment.

We stand committed to the safe and efficient movement of resources, goods, humans, animals and information material to, from, and through Afghanistan by developing an integrated National Railway Plan, sustainable policies, safety and operational regulations as well as becoming a contributing member of regional and international partnerships.

The AfRA is responsible for legal and regulatory policies governing rail investment, development, and operations. This includes the regulatory oversight needed for a safe, efficient, and reliable rail network. The AfRA is also the sole governing body in charge of planning, survey, design, construction and operations of the entire railway lines in Afghanistan. AfRA will ensure railway companies and stakeholders are engaged corporate citizens, committed to the safety of employees, customers and the public.

Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Tajikistan line needs money and security

Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan Railway project to be completed soon if challenges addressed“, reports the Afghanistan Times on 1 November 2014, citing the head of the Afghanistan Railway Authority speaking in an interview with Radio Azadi.

However those “challenges” are the perhaps non-trivial matters of security and funding, and two years sounds like it would be pretty good going for building 495 km of new railway.

According to the report:

  • Yama Shams, General Director & CEO of the Afghanistan Railway Authority, told Radio Azadi that “Engineers and workers of the project are faced with serious problems in areas from Mazar-i-Sharif city to Andkhoy. This area is insecure. They cannot work after 4pm. Our staffers have not been attacked yet but they are under security threat.”
  • Studies have been completed for the 220 km section of line from Mazar-i-Sharif to Andkhoy (where it would meet the line from Turkmenistan). Studies for the next 275 km (presumably the link to Tajikistan) would be completed in 2015.
  • The project could be completed in the next two years if the workers were provided with security and financial support.
  • The total project covers a 635 km route from Aqina near the border with Turkmenistan to Andkhoy, Sheberghan, Mazar-i-Sharif, Khulm, Kunduz and Shirkhan Bandar, ending at Kalkhor Abad (Kolkhozabad) in Tajikistan. This suggests that going via Shirkhan Bandar rather than a shorter route to the Tajik border is back on the agenda.


View Turkmenistan – Andkhoy railway plan in a larger map

Afghan railway station codes created

The Afghanistan Railway Authority (AfRA), following the creation of Afghanistan Country Code, for the first time in history of the country, has created Codes for the Afghanistan Railway Stations on the International Railway System Database.

This comes as a result of AfRA’s membership to the International Union of Railways (UIC) as well as the Organisation of Cooperation of Railways (OSJD).

The Station Codes will allow importers/exporters to book freight from anywhere in the world which was previously not possible, and bookings were made using neighbouring countries’ codes.

Source: Afghanistan Railway Authority Facebook page, 27 September 2014

Afghanistan allocated Railway Country Code

Railway Country Code 68 has been assigned to Afghanistan by the International Union of Railway (UIC) and the Organisation for Cooperation Between Railways (OSJD), the Afghanistan Railway Authority has announced.

AfRA said “all current railway stations, such as Hairatan, Naibabad and Mazar-e-Sharif will also be assigned Station Codes, to enable location identification for rail operations movements.”