Route of the Khaf – Herat railway

An attempt to gather together some information on the construction phases of the Iran to Herat railway line. Has anyone got a good map of the route?

This should not be taken as definitive! Corrections would be very welcome.

Reported distances vary a bit between sources. Spellings vary a lot.

Iran – Herat railway project construction phases

Country Stage Route Length, km Funding Construction completed
Iran
76.8 km1
Stage 1 Khaf (Kahwaf, Khawaf, Khawaaf, Khauf, خواف) (Junction at 24 km on the Torbat-e Heydariyeh – Sangan line) – Sangan2 (serves mines?) 14? Iran September 20163
Stage 2 Sangan – Myothek – Khoshbeh – Iran/Afghanistan border at Shamtiq (Shematigh, Shmtygh, شمتیغ)
4
~62 km Iran planned for October 2017?
Afghanistan Stage 3 border at Shamtiq – Jono (Jonaw, Junaw) near the Islam Qala – Herat road to the north of Ghourian (Ghoryan, غوريان, Ghurian) 56 61.2 Iran 30 km October 2017, rest by March 2018?
Stage 4 Jono – Robat Paryan (Rabat Pariyan) – Herat (هرات‎‎) industrial area and Airport 63 Afghanistan, supported by Italy Construction not yet started as of October 2017?

Gauge

The line is 1 435 mm (4 ft 8½ in) standard gauge, like the Iranian rail network (as well as the networks in China and most of Europe).

This is not compatible with the 1520 mm (5 ft) broad gauge used in the former USSR, including the lines crossing into Afghanistan from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. However this is somewhat academic for the forseeable future as the lines into Afghanistan don’t connect with each other, and there are already other Turkmenistan – Iran rail routes which avoid Afghanistan altogether.

References

Iran – Afghanistan railway to be completed in 10 days?

Construction work on a segment of railroad project extended from Iran to Afghanistan in western Herat province will be finished in the next 10 days and then put into service, said the Iranian Ambassador [Mohammad Raza Bahrami] on Saturday [=14 October 2017].

Work on the 62-kilomteres long railway project from Iran’s border to Ghoriyan district of Herat was launched in 2007 at a cost of $75 million based on a grant from neighboring country. The project was scheduled to be finished in 2009.

[…]

Eng. Barzanoni, specialist of the railway project, said of all the 62 kilometres of the railway inside Afghan soil, about 33 kilometers railway was stretched and the rest would be completed in the next 10 days.

Officials say the Herat-Khauf 191-long railroad is being constructed in four segments. About 139 kilometer of the project is financed by Iran and the fourth segment cost is provided by the Afghanistan national budget.

Source: Work on Iran-Herat rail-line to complete till 2017 end. Storai Karimi, Pajhwok, 14 October 2017

Khaf – Herat railway MoU signed

Railways of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Managing Director Saeed Mohammadzadeh and Afghanistan Railway Authority’s Director General Mohammad Yamma Shams signed a memorandum of understanding in Tehran on 23 July 2017 covering the Khaf – Herat railway line which is currently under construction, as well as planned further co-operation.1

Mohammadzadeh reportedly said the first 30 km of the section of the line within Afghanistan is expected to be completed on 6 August 2017. The line will initially be used for freight including cement, petrol and oil,2 but passenger services are also envisaged for the near future. Iranian exports to Afghanistan by rail could reach five million tons/year. The rest of the part of the railway which is being built by Iran is predicted to be completed by March 2018.3

Shams said AfRA had made preparations for calling tenders to appoint an Iranian company to build the final section of the route, which it is responsible for. Mohammadzadeh said RAI would also train 96 AfRA staff in Iran.

References

  1. Iran, Afghanistan to link railway networks. Ebrahim Fallahi, Tehran Times, 24 July 2017
  2. Khaf-Herat railway to open within weeks, MEHR News Agency, 20 July 2017
  3. Iran-Afghanistan Rail Linkup With in 3 Weeks, Financial trubune, 22 July 2017

Afghanistan and China sign railway feasibility study memorandum

Afghan Ambassador to China Janan Mosazai and a Chinese construction company signed a memorandum of understanding on 8 June 2017 for a Chinese-funded feasibility study to be conducted within the next 12 months for a railway line which would run from Sher Khan Bandar on the border with Tajikistan to Herat.1

Oddly, various news reports talk about “reconstruction”2 or “reviving” a railway, although there has not been a line from Sher Khan Bandar to Herat.

I can’t find details of which company is involved. Anyone know?

The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani met with the president of the people’s Republic of China Xi Jinping, at the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Thursday morning, Astana.
[…]
[The Chinese president] referred to the commercial cooperation between the two countries in the framework of one-belt-one-road design and said that China is keen to foster commercial ties with Afghanistan especially on construction of railways, dams, roads and housing, implementation of electricity projects and exporting Afghan products to Chinese markets.
[…]
President Ghani described construction of railways as a central element for encouraging regional connectivity, transit and commercial ties. Such connectivity initiatives will connect Iran with China and central Asia with eastern Asia through the Chinese economic corridor.

The President also stressed that it is time China and Afghanistan and other regional countries should take constructive measures for regional connectivity.
[…]
Following the meeting of the two leaders, two memorandums of understanding were signed by Afghan ambassador for China and chairman of Chinese company on construction of Sher Khan port-Herat railways and implementation of an electricity project in Kunar.

As mentioned in the MoUs, the Chinese company will conduct a feasibility study in twelve months on construction of Sher Khan port-Herat railways.

Source: President Ghani Meets With President Of People’s Republic Of China, Office of the President, 9 June 2017

References

Khaf – Herat railway contractor

Iranian company Ballast describes itscontract for work on the Khaf – Herat railway project in an undated article on its website:

Client: Construction and Development of Transportation Infrastructure Company
Type of Contract: PC
Contract Period: 9 months
Location: Razavi Khorasan Province

Project Outline
The east corridor of country is a railway which begins from Chabahar port and through Dogharoun connects to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and China railway networks. Khaf-Sangan-Harat is a part of east corridor which is 191 km long. 2 parts of this rail lines are in Iran’s territory and 2 parts are located in Afghanistan. Considering the location of Sangan ore mine in Khaf, a major part of ore is being transported through this railway so development of railway from Khaf toward southern parts of country is considered as one of the government principle programs in this field. From international perspective since Afghanistan is a country gifted with many minerals, particularly the extension of Sangan mine, importance of using railway system as to reach to the open water highlighted. Khaf-Harat railway project, which is a single line with 76.8 km length stats from 24th km of Sangan-Torbat Heydarieh railway and from the 55th, is located along the border and at 78+800 reaches Shamtigh border point. This railway is designed based on axial load of 25 tons and 160 km/h speed.

Scope of Work
The project’s scope of work includes supply of equipment & materials, construction and installation works, laying rails.

Key Statistics

Laying rail: approximately 90 km
Station improvement: 5
Turnout: 54
Ballast: approximately 224000m3
Sleepers: approximately 150000
Rail: approximately 11000 tons

Source: Khaf-Harat Laying Rail Project, Ballast Manufacturing & Infrastructure, Iran

Iran – Herat railway to open next year?

There are (once again!) reports that the railway under construction between Iran and Herat will open by the next Iranian new year, that is March 2018.

Iran’s Mehr News Agency reports that Hossein Ashouri, Deputy Head of Operations at Railways of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has said the line has now been built to the Afghan border. On the Afghan side of the border the civil works are in place but the tracks still need to be laid. Of the two construction phases on the Afghan side of the border, “foundations of one is 50% through while the figure for the other is 25%”.1

However the opening date for the line has long been a bit of a moving target, having been announced in previous years.

There are various news articles drawing on the same source, with assorted photographs which may or may not show the line in question – many do not.

References

  1. Railroad to connect Iran, Afghanistan, Mehr News Agency, 25 February 2017

Tracklaying starts on Afghan section of Iran – Herat railway

A ceremony marks the start of tracklaying on the Afghan section of the Iran to Herat railway.

The locomotives are Islamic Repubic of Iran Railways Siemens/Mapna Iranrunnner or Safir locos.


View Larger Map

News on the Iran to Herat railway

Some news reports on the railway from Khaf in Iran to Herat in Afghanistan have appeared, although I can’t spot English-language versions.

Using Google Translate, I think the Fars News report about progress with the railway says that the 76.8 km from Khaf to the border has been finished. It is suitable for 160 km/h passenger and 120 km/h freight trains, and services could start in October[?].

A BBC Persian article possibly says that Iran’s consul general in Herat, Mahmoud Afkhami Rashidi, has said that [construction, track-laying?] work on the Iranian border to Ghurian third section of the railway will resume after Eid al-Fitr [6 July 2016]. The fourth stage of the line will be built by the Afghan[?] government and take the line to an industrial area in Herat[?]. The governments of Afghanistan and Iran have recently held talks about security and technical co-ordination for the construction of the line.

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.

References