Afghanistan’s railway door to Europe

Some pictures have appeared showing the new railway at Aqina on the Turkmenistan – Afghanistan border.

It would be nice if the opening ceremony led to a consensus on romanised spellings of the various place names – it would make tracking the project so much easier!

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

Photo of the Atamurat – Aqina railway?

The Khaama Press story Lazuli railway network to link Afghanistan to Europe and China soon published on 19 October 2016 has a photo which might be of the new railway from Atamurat in Turkmenistan to the Afghan border and Aqina. If so, this is only the second time I have seen photos of the line.

Aqina railway to be completed next month

Generally, construction and installation works Atamyrat – Ymamnazar – Akina railroad are planned to be completed in the first decade of November, 2016.

Large social and economic impact is expected from this railway in Afghanistan, because, as a rule, automobile roads, power and energy lines are laid along such roads. Owing to such infrastructure, perspectives of such territories, where railroads are laid, along which working settlements appear, next to large industrial facilities, satellite cities grow. Thousands of working places are appeared; industrial growth is observed.

[…]

Thus, Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Tajikistan railroad will become another golden link of the Asian railway corridor, which in its turn will become an important segment of international transport networks uniting two parts of the huge continent, Europe and Asia.

Source: The President of Turkmenistan held session dedicated to forthcoming opening of transnational railroad, State News Agency of Turkmenistan, 7 October 2016

Aqina railway opening ceremony committee formed

The President of Turkmenistan signed the Decree on establishment of special committee for provision of high organizational level of opening ceremony of Atamyrat – Ymamnazar (Turkmenistan) – Akina (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) section of the first phase of International Asian railroad transport corridor as well as of hydrocarbons reception, storage and offloading terminal at Ymamnazar custom post of Atamyrat etrap of Lebap velayat.

According to the document, the Committee is assigned to develop the plan for abovementioned opening ceremonies, define measures for high organizational level and assign responsible leaders.

Source: Committee for opening ceremony of Atamyrat – Ymamnazar – Akina railroad line is approved, Turkmenistan: the Golden Age Online Newspaper, 7 October 2016

Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister at Afghan railway ceremony

Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov made a rare and little publicized visit to three northwestern Afghan provinces at the end of June.
[…]
Officially, Meredov was there to discuss bilateral projects. He participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway in the town of Akina in Faryab Province
[…]
Source: Majlis Podcast: Turkmenistan’s Afghan Dilemma, Bruce Pannier, RFE/RL, 2 July 2016

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”