“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”.
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.
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.
“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.
MoU of Railway Construction Signed between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan
March 20, 2013- On his first day of the visit, President Hamid Karzai attended a trilateral summit held in Ashgabat between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.
At the end of the summit, the three Presidents signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of rail transport infrastructure linking Turkmenistan and the Islamic Afghanistan and Afghanistan and the Republic of Tajikistan.
According to the memorandum, the Parties within one month from the date of signing of this Memorandum will hold experts meeting from the relevant ministries and agencies of the three countries for detailed study of routes, as well as organizational, legal and financial bases for the practical implementation of the railway construction project. The construction of this railway will begin in early July of the current year.
The railway will start from Atamurat -Ymamnazar of Turkmenistan leading to Akina-Andkhoy of Afghanistan, then connecting to Tajikistan via Shirkhan port of Kunduz province .
Following the signing ceremony, the three Presidents attended a joint press conference where they described this project as important for enhanced trade and economic development of countries in the region.
At the press conference, President Karzai said that this railway would not only link Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan but it would also play an important role in strengthening economies of countries and peoples in this region.
The President added, by signing the memorandum, they took another step for their peoples’ well-being which would result in economic growth for the three countries, bringing them a brighter future.
President Karzai is scheduled to attend Nowruz International Festival tomorrow
Source: Office of the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 20 March 2013
There is also a statement from the Government of Turkmenistan (in Russian), but it doesn’t add anything.
Design studies for the second Turkmenistan – Afghanistan railway line have been completed, and work will start “soon”, the Afghan President’s office reports following a meeting between Presidents Karzai and Berdimuhamedov in Türkmenbaşy on 25 January 2012.
… President Karzai met Wednesday morning President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to discuss a number of important economic projects including the TAPI, the Afghan-Turkmenistan railway and electricity export to Afghanistan.
Accompanying the President on the trip was Afghan Mining Minister, who said a design and full study of a separate project involving the establishment of an 84 km of railway extending across the Atamyrat-Ymamnazar in Turkmenistan to Akina-Andhoi in Afghanistan had been finalized with actual work expected to begin soon.
Source: Afghan and Turkmen Presidents Vow to Implement Critical Projects, Office of the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 26 January 2012
From Turkmenistan comes this report:
The Presidents also noted the great potential of cooperation in transportation and communications sector. They discussed the project on construction of the railway Atamyrat-Ymamnazar-Akin-Andhoy. A framework agreement on construction of this railway was signed during the official visit by the President of Turkmenistan to Afghanistan in May 2011. According to the interlocutors, construction and commissioning of the new railway will not only serve the development of transport infrastructure in Afghanistan but can become a significant element in the regional and international transit transportation in the long term.
Source: Turkmen-Afghan high level talks held in Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan.ru, 26 January 2012
Here is a map I put together previously:
View Turkmenistan – Andkhoy railway plan in a larger map
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.
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”.
“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.”
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.
Electrification and extension to boost Central Asian connections, Railway Gazette International, 29 September 2011.
I can’t find much hard information on exactly what is being funded in Afghanistan.
Construction of Aqina-Andkhoi Railway to Begin Next Year, writes Tamim Shaheer at Tolo News on 7 August 2011:
According to the Ministry, the railway has a length of six kilometers [sic – previously reported as 36] and will be constructed with financial aid from Turkmenistan … construction of third railway will begin next year in Jowzjan province, and currently the study phase is underway … “I think the study phase of this project will be completed by the end of this year, and if there is no problem the practical phase will start next year,” Ahmad Shah Wahid, Deputy Minister for Public Works Ministry said.