Uzbek and Afghan presidents discuss Mazar-i-Sharif to Herat railway

Afghanistan’s President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani paid an official visit to Uzbekistan on 4-6 December 2017, at the invitation of President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

In a joint statement:

11. The Presidents noted the priority importance of bilateral cooperation in the field of transport and transit corridors, which provide the shortest and most effective access to foreign markets.

In this regard, the Parties agreed to further intensify mutual efforts aimed at ensuring the construction of railways and highways, as well as facilitating the development of transit traffic and trade on the territory of Afghanistan. In particular, based on the efficient bilateral cooperation and the experience of mutual benefit, the Parties agreed to jointly implement the following projects aimed at further development of transport infrastructure in Afghanistan:

  • Construction of the “Mazar-e-Sharif–Herat” railway line, planned within the framework of the “Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor”;
  • […]

The Presidents welcomed the signing of cooperation agreements on the “Termez-Hairatan” bridge between the relevant organizations of the two countries.

Source: Joint statement, Office of the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 5 December 2017

Remarking on the importance of transit facilitation between the two countries, President Ghani said that the agreement on implementation of Mazar e Sharif – Herat Railways will contribute to regional connectivity and allow smooth flow of exports. He said, “This is one of the major regional transit projects and both countries are earnestly working on the implementation and funding.”

Source: President Ghani: A New Chapter Of Afghan-Uzbek Relations Has Been Opened Out, Office of the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 5 December 2017

We have to make every human effort to see Surkhandara connected to Puli-Khomri through the transmission line. And we have to devote the next month to see how we are going to move to implementation and financing the railway from Mazar-i-Sharif to Herat.

Let me assure the people of Uzbekistan and the government of Uzbekistan that the people and government of Afghanistan have every intention to transform Uzbekistan into one of our major trading and transit partners.

Source: President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks During Joint Press Conference With President Of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Office of the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 5 December 2017

20 documents aimed at further strengthening of cooperation in political, trade-economic, investment, transport-communication, scientific, education and other spheres were also signed. They include documents on establishment of a joint commission on the issues of security, provision of legal assistance in civil, family and criminal cases, construction of Surkhan – Puli Khumri power line, the Mazari Sharif – Sheberghan – Maymana – Herat railway, the interaction in the sphere of freight and customs.

Source: Documents have been signed, Press Service of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, % December 2017

BBC video of Hayratan

“”Ҳайратон” кўприги Афғонистонга неча миллион фойда келтирмоқда?” is a BBC Uzbek video about rail freight at Hayratan on the border with Uzbekistan, which was published on 30 November 2017. I don’t speak Uzbek so I have no idea what the commentary says, but there is lots of footage of the railway.

Hairatan photo

Not sure what is happening here, but there is a train.

Freight train from China arrives in Afghanistan

The first rail freight service from China arrived at Hairatan in Afghanistan on 7 September 2016, having left Nantong in eastern China’s Jiangsu province on 25 August 2016.

Guests at a welcoming ceremony includied the former governor of Balkh province, Mohammad Ishaq Rahguzar, and China’s ambassador.

The same rolling stock did not run through all the way, because China uses 1435 mm standard gauge railway track while the former USSR and Afghaistan use 1520 mm (“Russian”) gauge. The containers were presumably transhipped at the break of gauge at the China-Kazakhstan border.

The train was hauled in Afghanistan by a TEM2 diesel locomotive decorated with banners and the flags of China and Afghanistan.

Geopolitical significance:

There are still some technical issues: