Turkmenistan and Afghanistan sign railway agreements

President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani made an official visit to Turkmenistan at the invitation of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov on 21 February 2019.

As part of the visit, an MoU was signed for Turkmenistan to build the 30 km railway extension from Aqina, on the border, to Andkhoy, the first significant place inside Afghanistan.1 Agreements were also reached for the regulation of cross-border rail traffic, while the possibility of building a Towraghondi to Herat railway is to be studied.

Dwelling on the key areas of economic cooperation, the heads of state specifically focused on the transport and communications sphere. […] The Presidents highly commended the finalization of works and commissioning of the Serhetabat–Torghundi and Kerki–Imamnazar railway networks, and the Rabat–Kashan–Kalai-nau power line.2

[Ghani] noted the presence of big opportunities in different directions of cooperation including in railway transport and communication, having expressed the confidence that Afghan part would also take part in the construction of the railroads of international importance.

In this context, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani highlighted the importance of the initiative about the continuation of Serhetabat – Turgundy railroad to Herat, having assured that Afghan side would make relative work for the implementation of this project.
[…]
Speaking about the partnership in railway sphere, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani noted the future of continuation of construction of Kerky – Ymamnazar – Akina railroad as well as continuation of Serhetabat – Turgundy railroad to Herat.3

During the visit

Afghanistan Railway Authority (ARA) and Ministry of Transpiration and Communication of Turkmenistan, in the presence of presidents of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, singed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for construction of railway from Aaqina port to Andkhoy district. This project will be designed and constructed with the length of 30 km from Aaqina railway’s station to Andkhoy railway’s station by technical facilities and professional experts of Turkmenistan’s railway.

It is worth mention that based on the pre-signed contract between the railway authorities of both countries, construction of 10 km new railway for development of Aaqina railway’s station is in progress. Also during the official trip of the president of Afghanistan and containment delegation to Turkmenistan, two other agreements signed between railway authorities of both countries for administration and organizing of Tor Ghondai port railway’s affairs. The parties as well agreed to jointly assess extension possibility of railway from Sarhadabad-Tor Ghondi to Herat city.4

The lines in question are 1520 mm gauge, as with the route from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan.

An “Agreement on International Railway Transit Point on Turkmen – Afghan State border” was signed “on the government level”, and regulations for the organisation of railway communications between Serhetabat and Turgundy [Towraghondi, etc] adopted.5

Turkmenistan to Aqina railway reaches Afghanistan

A ceremony was held at Aqina1 in Afghanistan on 30 October 2016 to mark the laying of the final rails for the new railway from Atamurat2 in Turkmenistan to Afghanistan via the border crossing at Imamnazar.3

The new line is around 88 km long, with about 85 km on the section as far as Imamnazar and about 3.55 km on the cross-border secton which runs into Afghanistan.

Guests at the ceremony included Engineer Mahmoud Baligh, Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Works (the MPW includes the Afghanistan Railway Authority), Turkmenistan’s Minister of Railways and the country’s Ambassador to Kabul,4 Special Envoy to the President of Afghanistan on the CIS countries Shakir Kargar as well as representatives of the railway builders, media and local authorities.5

Atendees “greeted the symbolic moment with the storm of applause” when a “powerful tracklaying machine of the construction units of the Ministry of Railway Transport of Turkmenistan” laid the final rails and sleepers.6 Minister of Public Works Mahmood Baligh said co-operation with Turkmenistan to build the railway network would not only be beneficial for neighbouring countries and peoples, but would also contribute to widening mutually beneficial regional and international economic co-operation that meets the interests of peace, stability and sustainable development.

Laying the final rails for the railway from Atamurat to Afghanistan

Construction of the line is now almost finished, and the presidents of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan are scheduled to attend an opening ceremony on 28 November 2016.7.

The project included the construction of two 5.8 m wide bridges over the River Karakum, one 363 m long and one 256 m long, which were built by Turkmenistan in co-operation with specialists from Ukrainian company Altcom.8

The next phase of the line will run for 33 km within Afghanistan from Aqina to Andkhoy.9

The new line is intended to form the first stage of the TAT Railway corridor linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Construction had been launched by the presidents of the three countries with a ceremony on 5 June 2013.

Announcing the completion of the first section of the route, Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Foreign Afairs said the new railway “is intended to become an important link in the international transport, to encourage trade relations between the countries of the region and give a strong impetus to the restoration of the Afghan economy”, and would “contribute to the solution of social issues, ensuring employment of the population.”

The importance and potential of the new railway, which will connect Turkmenistan and Afghanistan with the economic ties, is proved by the intense freight traffic flow passing through the Ymamnazar customs post. Turkmenistan exports oil products, liquefied gas, carbamide, cement, grain, licorice, carbon, cotton seed oil, Saradja wool, etc. Moreover, large transit consignments of humanitarian and other cargoes pass through the Ymamnazar customs post. Citrus and fruits transiting through Afghanistan are registered as import. A number of food products are transported to the neighbouring countries of the region and Europe through territory of Turkmenistan.
Source: Turkmen construction specialists mounted the final joints of the first stage of the Asian railway in Akina, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan: The Golden Age, 30 November 2016.

References

  1. Also written Akina, Aqeena etc
  2. Or Atamyrat, and formerly Kerki
  3. Countless spellings including Ymamnazar, Ymam Nazar, Ymymnazar etc, sometimes inconsistently within the same official text
  4. شروع كار ريل گذاري خط آهن بندر آقينه با حضور وزير فوايد عامه، نماينده… , Ministry of Public Works, 1 November 2016
  5. The construction of the first phase of an international railway corridor Turkmenistan – Afghanistan completed, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, 2016
  6. Turkmen construction specialists mounted the final joints of the first stage of the Asian railway in Akina, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan: The Golden Age, 30 November 2016
  7. Asian International Railway Corridor, Regional Economic Cooperation Conference for Afghanistan, 1 November 2016
  8. Altcom previously built a road bridge over the Amu Darya.
  9. Various similar spellings

Lapis Lazuli railway inauguration soon

Lapis-lazuli hg
A piece of lapis lazuli from Afghanistan.

During a recent visit to Aqina in Faryab province, Mohammad Shakir Kargar, the Afghan President’s advisor on Central Asian affairs, gave officials the go-ahead for the creation of “security, cultural, infrastructure development, transport and protocol committees” for the start of work on an 36 km railway from Aqina to Andkhoy, reports Pajhwok Afghan News.1

Design work is to be completed over the next two to three months, and construction is to start soon. Faryab province Governor Syed Anwar Sadaat said preliminary works had already begun, and arrangements were being made for a the leaders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to attend a ceremony in Aqina to launch the project.

This line would be an extension of the railway from Turkmenistan to Aqina which is nearing completion (perhaps the start of work on the next section will be combined with an opening ceremony?).

Kargar said freight traffic at Aqina is prdicted to be 3.5 million tonnes in the first year, and 10 million tonnes by 2020. He said the Asian Development Bank would provide $200m for another section of line to connect the current projects with the existing railway from Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif.

The link from Turkmenistan to northern Afghanistan forms part of the “Lapis Lazuli corridor”, a concept for improving road and rail links between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, harmonising customs systems and removing other obstacles to trade.

  1. Lapis Lazuli railroad project to be inaugurated in 3 months“, Qutbuddin Kohi, Pajhwok Afghan News, 16 February 2016

Northern Afghanistan railway feasibility study scope extended

Appleton & CANARAIL announce extension of Scope of Work for the Afghanistan Railway Feasibility Study for Northern Afghanistan

Appleton Consulting Incorporated (ACI) is proud to announce, in concert with its partner CANARAIL, the extension of the Scope of Work for the Afghanistan Railway Feasibility Study for Northern Afghanistan from 300kms to approximately 700kms. Awarded in December, 2013 to ACI and CANARAIL, the funding for this project is from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and serves as part of a larger Central Asian regional transportation network that encompasses ten countries in the region and is intended to enhance large scale commercial market activity.

The Project will be implemented in two phases :

Phase One: The railway line will connect Kholm to Aqina at the Turkmenistan border via Sheberghan and Andkhoy; and
Phase Two: The railway will connect Kholm to Sherkhan Bandar at the Tajikistan border via Kunduz.

This is the first railway project to be managed by the Afghanistan Railway Authority (AFRA) established in 2012 for the development of more than 3000kms of railway in Afghanistan. The railway alignment is part of a major corridor in the country intended to serve the emerging mineral, oil and gas sector.

The major stakeholders in this project include the Ministry of Public Works; the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum; the Ministry of Transport; the Ministry of Agriculture and various other national and regional organizations.

Source: Appleton Consulting, 5 November 2014

Their website has a basic map of the route.

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

Turkmenistan – Afghanistan rail link to be completed in June 2015

On 10 January 2014 The Times Of Central Asia reported that “Additional forces were sent for construction of Atamyrat-Imamnazar (85 km) site of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway“, citing Altyn Asir (Golden Age) TV.

The report says completion had been planned for the end of 2016, but has now been brought forward to June 2015. The 400 km route between Atamurat, Imamnazar, Aqina, Andkhoy, Panj and Tajikistan “will be implemented by 2015”

Ministry of Public Works commissions railway study

Canarail and Appleton Consulting are to undertake a 12-month feasibility study which will look into extending the Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif railway around 225 km west to Sheberghan, Andkhoy and Aqina, and around 50 km northeast to the border with Tajikistan.

Railway Gazette story with more details:

Afghan government commissions east – west rail study

AFGHANISTAN: The Ministry of Public Works has commissioned a feasibility study for a proposed 300 km east – west railway across northern Afghanistan.

The C$3·7m contract announced on December 11 has been awarded to Systra’s Canadian freight railway consultancy Canarail and its partner Appleton Consulting Inc, which specialises in programme management for projects in Afghanistan.

[More at RailwayGazette.com…]

The Canarail announcement:

CANARAIL SIGNS A $3.7 MILLION DEAL IN AFGHANISTAN

Canadian Rail Specialist signs a contract with the Ministry of Public Works of Afghanistan

Montreal, CANADA, December 10, 2013 – CANARAIL’s President and CEO, Mr. Miguel Valero, is proud to announce, along with its Kabul-based partner Appleton Consulting Inc., the signing of a contract with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to carry out a 300 km railway feasibility study in Northern Afghanistan. Funding for this project comes from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Building on the conclusions and recommendations of ADB’s Railway Development Study and with the objective to extend the now operational Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif Railway, the Government contemplates the construction of a railway heading west from Mazar-e-Sharif through Sheberghan and Andkhoy to Acqina to link with Turkmenistan, and of another railway heading northeast from Mazar-e-Sharif to the border with Tajikistan.

If proved feasible, the extension of the existing railway in both east and west directions will foster cross border and regional trade, increase rail usage, ensure the viability of the initial railway investment, and introduce competition in rail operations.

“Afghanistan has a vast potential for developing the mineral extraction sector, which may be an engine of self-sustaining economic growth in the near future. The decision to award this study to CANARAIL is another demonstration that we stand as a strong and reliable source of expertise for railway matters all over the world. We are very proud to become  Afghanistan and Asian Development Bank’s partner in identifying long term solutions for rail transportation in Afghanistan and in the region and to act as a platform for economic growth.” said Mr. Valero who is just coming back from Kabul where he finalized the contract negotiations.

CANARAIL possesses a unique expertise in rail transport, with a strong focus on heavy haul and mining sectors. Its experts have participated in major projects on an international scale over the last 20 years, contributing to the completion of some of the most important railway projects worldwide.

Despite its vast international experience and track record in the provision of rail services, this is CANARAIL’s first significant gain in Afghanistan and in the region. This success was made possible by its partnership with Appleton Consulting Inc. (ACI), a Canadian firm specialized in programme management for Afghanistan-based projects.

 ABOUT CANARAIL

Founded in 1991, CANARAIL is a CANADA-based rail consulting and engineering firm that specializes in mining, heavy haul freight, and urban domains. CANARAIL is known for its expertise in feasibility studies, consulting, detailed design, and the supervision of construction of major projects. Over the last 21 years, CANARAIL has participated in over 500 projects in Canada, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, North America, Australia, Europe, and Latin America. CANARAIL is headquartered in Montreal and is part of the French group SYSTRA, the world’s largest rail engineering organization.

ABOUT APPLETON

Appleton Consulting Inc. (ACI) is an international business consulting company that focuses on enabling unique business solutions for emerging and developing market sectors. Getting its start in Afghanistan in 2007, Appleton has participated in $400M USD dollars worth of projects with its clients and partners.  Appleton has a wide range of services for its local and international clients including project management, design services, strategic partnership development, proposal writing, supply chain management, training, and environmental consulting services.

Source: Canarail press release, 10 December 2013.

Tajik rail link rethought?

“Afghan Province Upset At Being Left Out Of Touted Rail Network”, reports Abubakar Siddique at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on 31 July 2013.

The planned railway across northern Afghanistan from the Turkmenistan border to Andkhoy and then east to Tajikistan was due to connect with an extension of the Tajik railway network at Shirkhan Bandar in Kunduz province.

But a new, shorter route given tentative approval this month by the Afghan Public Works Ministry would bypass Konduz by linking the neighboring Afghan province of Balkh to Tajikistan at a point further west along the two countries’ common border.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Governor of Kunduz, Mohammad Anwar Jagdalak, is unimpressed. He told RFE/RL “This new proposed link will prove disastrous for Shir Khan Bandar,” and “We are petitioning our president to plead that the move violates the principle of balanced regional development.”

Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Works Najibullah Ojan told RFE/RL that the time and cost needed to complete the “momentous project” had led the authorities to consider building a 50-60 km temporary rail link on a shorter route, but this line would be dismantled once the longer route via Kunduz was completed in “about four years”.

Presidents launch construction of Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Tajikistan railway

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon were in Atamyrat on 5 June 2013 for an elaborate ceremony to launch construction of the first phase of a railway planned to link the three countries.

Afghanistan's

The helicopters took the leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan from the airport in Turkmenabat to Atamyrat town, where the ceremony would be held. The leaders of Turkmenistan, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan signed a message to the descendants, put it into a capsule and poured the first shovels of concrete, thus giving a kick-start to the construction of the new railway.
Source: Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway to be built, State News Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH), Turkmenistan: the Golden Age Online Newspaper, 5 June 2013

Design work for the initial 85 km from Atamyrat (formerly called Kerki) to the Imamnazar border crossing between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan was completed in 2012. Following a March 2013 meeting between the presidents, Afghanistan formally invited the Turkmen authorities to undertake studies for a 38 km continuation across the border to Aqina and Andkhvoy. This could be funded and built by Turkmenistan. It would provide a second rail link between the countries, in addition to the line to Towraghondi.

The longer-term plan is to continue the new railway across northern Afghanistan to Sherkhan Bandar and Tajikistan.

…[the Presidents] of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan arrived by helicopter at Atamyrat station. Here, the leaders of three countries signed a letter addressed to posterity, put it in a capsule and place it in concrete, thus giving a symbolic start to construction of a new railway. In their presence, the first rails of Atamyrat-Imamnazar-Akina-Andhoi section of the main railway were laid. This section is stretching for 123 kilometers. The Turkmen part of the railway from Atamyrat station to Akina station, the first station of the new railway in Afghanistan, will be constructed by Turkmen specialists. The length of this portion is 87 kilometers.

Source: Construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway launched, Turkmenistan.ru, 6 June 2013.

Work to start on Turkmenistan – Afghanistan rail link

“Presidents of Afghanistan and Tajikistan to participate in starting construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway” reports Turkmenistan.ru. It looks like the a ceremony to mark the official start of work on the new Turkmenistan to Afghanistan railway is to be held on 5 June 2013.

Background at: Three countries agree rail link co-ordination, Railway Gazette International, 25 April 2013.