Herat to Torghundi railway study comissioned

On 4 April 2016 Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Works signed a contract for Canarail to undertake a technical feasibility study for a railway from Herat to Torghundi

On 4 April 2016 Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Works signed a contract for Canadian consultancy Canarail to undertake a technical feasibility study for a proposed railway which would run from Herat to the Turkmenistan Railways railhead and freight yard at Torghundi.1 The study is expected to take six months to complete, with the Asian Development Bank covering the US$$1,603,500 cost.2

Contract between MoPW and Canarail International Company for economic and technical studies of Herat – Torghondi project has been signed.

H.E. Eng. Mahmoud Baligh, Minister of Public Works said “this railway project involves five countries as of China, Kazakhstan [sic; the Persian-language version of the announcement appears to say Kyrgyzstan, which would make more sense], Tajikistan, Iran and Afghanistan, which connect Asia to Europe through Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. Although Afghanistan is a mountainous country & developing road network is very challenging, but to become a part of transit countries which is our historic and old vision so we have to develop the railway network to reach major economic powers, this issue for increasing domestic revenues and enhance economic growth plays a major role”.

Mentioned project takes 200 km length and will last 6 months to construct and cost $ 1.6 Million USD which is funded by Asian Development Bank.

Source: Contract of Technical and Economic studies of (Herat – Torghondi railway) has been signed, Ministry of Public Works, 5 April 2016

This seems to be referring to the Five Nations railway plan for a corridor from China to Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran. It is not clear what the 200 km refers to; Herat to the border is about 80 km in a straight line. US$1.6m might fund the technical study, but wouldn’t cover much construction work.

The gauge is not specified. Torghondi is the gateway to the 1520 mm network in the former USSR, however a 1435 mm gauge line is under construction from Iran to Herat.

In December 2013 the Ministry of Public Works had appointed Canarail and Appleton Consulting to undertake a 12-month study of the feasibility of 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.

Historical note

During the 19th Century Great Game era there was concern in Britain that Russia might one day build a rail link from the Trans-Caspian Railway to Herat, which it was feared would be a useful base for any Russian advance on India. British strategists – serious and armchair – debated the merits of building a railway to Kandahar as a counter-move. It was reported that the Russians had a stockpile of railway materials at Kushka (now Serhetabat) which would have enabled them to build a line to Herat in a hurry, and the British set up a supply depot at Chaman on the Indian frontier containing the track components which would be required for their line to Kandahar.


ACI design manager visits Canarail

Appleton Consulting Inc. is pleased to announce that one of its principal staff – Hasaun Shahir – as National Railway Track Design Engineer had been invited by its partner CANARAIL consulting head office to Montreal, Quebec (Canada) on the Northern Afghanistan Railway Study project.

The purpose of the visit was to coordinate and discuss various disciplines of the project and ensure everything was going well as per the client’s requirements.


Source: ACI’s Design Manager Visits Canadian Strategic Partner’s Railway Design Team in Canada, Appleton Consulting Inc, 21 June 2015

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.

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:


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.


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.


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.