Construction of Herat railway Stage 4 Phase 1 launched

As part of the opening ceremonies for the first three stages of the railway from Iran, Mohammad Yama Shams, head of the Afghanistan Railway Authority, officially launched construction of Stage 4 Phase 1 of the route.1 This will run for 43 km from Rozanak to Robat Paryan.

Attendees included the Governor of Herat, various officials and elders.

A plaque mentions Integra Construction KZ, a Kazakh railway contractor which signed a contract to build this Section 4 Phase 1 of the line on 12 December 2019. The 43 km Phase 1 was to be be built in 16 months at cost of US$58.5m, funded by the government of Afghanistan. It will pass through the Ghorian, Zenda Jan and Enjeel districts and to reach Rabat Paryan.2

Italy will provide a long-term loan to finance the future Stage 4 Phase 2, which will add a further 44 km and take the line to Herat airport.

References

  1. Afghanistan Railway Authority post on Facebook, 12:35 on 10 December 2020
  2. First Phase, Section Four of Khwaf-Herat Railway Project Signed, president.gov.af, 12 December 2019

Khaf to Herat province railway officially opened

The railway from Khaf in Iran to Rozanak in Afghanistan was officially inaugurated on 10 December 2020. Afghanistan’s President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani participated in the celebrations by video conference rather than in person, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

‘I welcome the opening of this vital project as an important step towards recovery and development in both countries’, said President Ghani, adding that the railway would be the most efficient, useful and cheapest means of transport. Ghani said the project was the result of ‘tireless efforts’ by Afghanistan and Iran to improve regional connectivity and economic prosperity, and the efforts of officials, engineers, workers and other stakeholders.

He noted that Afghanistan had not been part of the ‘transport revolution’ which railways had brought much of the world. While there had been plans to develop railways under King Amanullah in the 1920s and President Daoud Khan in the 1970s, no major projects got underway until after the 2004 Berlin Conference on Afghanistan where the importance of railways for the economic future of Afghanistan and the region was stressed.

‘Our vision is for Afghanistan to regain its central position on the Silk and Lapis Lazuli roads and to invest in trade development’, said Ghani.

Iran’s President Rouhani said the opening was ‘a day of peace and blessing’ for ‘two nations from the same roots, history, culture’, which had ‘maintained their brotherhood and neighbourhood as each other’s best companions.’ He said ‘our connection has always been through our common hearts, thoughts, cultures, behaviours and efforts, and today the railway strengthens this connection.’

Khaf-Herat Railway inaugurated at order of Iran, Afghanistan Presidents


In the 36th week of the inauguration of the national and infrastructure projects throughout the country with the slogan of “Prudence and Hope for Surge in Production”, parts one, two and three of the Khaf-Herat railway were inaugurated and put into operation at order of the Presidents of Iran and Afghanistan

The construction of parts one, two and three of the Khaf-Herat railway, with a length of 140 km, has cost 1.8 trillion tomans.

Khaf-Herat railway is 225 km long and its operation is carried out in 4 sections.

Parts one and two are 78 km long in Iran and from Khaf city to the border in Khorasan Razavi province. Parts three and four of the railway are 147 km long in the Afghanistan soil from the border to Rozanak 62 km and from Rozanak to Herat 85 km, of which 140 km was put into operation today.

Development and strengthening of economic, social and cultural relations between Iran and Afghanistan by facilitating the export and import of goods and transport of passengers between the two countries, proper rail access of Afghanistan through the Islamic Republic of Iran to other international areas including the southern open waters, Caucasus, Turkey, Iraq and Europe are among the goals of this national plan.

Source: Official website of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 10 December 2020

Presidents of Iran and Afghanistan at the inauguration ceremony of Khaf-Herat Railway

Linking Khaf-Herat Railway a valuable step towards further strengthening ties, cooperation between Iran and Afghanistan

The Presidents of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Afghanistan described the railway connection between the two countries as a valuable step towards further strengthening ties and cooperation between the two nations and the two governments of Iran and Afghanistan and stressed that today will be remembered in the history of the relations between the two great Iranian and Afghan nations.

Speaking on Thursday at the inauguration ceremony of the Khaf-Herat Railway, Dr Hassan Rouhani and Mr Ashraf Ghani said that the opening of this historic project will be an important step in reviving and a leap in the cooperation between the two countries.

Addressing the “Dear People of Afghanistan”, Dr Rouhani said, “Today is a day of peace and blessing for the two great nations of Afghanistan and Iran; two nations from the same roots, history, culture and from the same region throughout history, who have maintained their brotherhood and neighbourhood as each other’s best companions”.

“Our connection has always been through our common hearts, thoughts, cultures, behaviours and efforts, and today the railroad strengthens this connection,” the president said.

Stating that today is a happy and unforgettable day for the two nations of Iran and Afghanistan, Dr Rouhani said, “I wished that this ceremony could be held in person, but due to health instructions related to coronavirus, we had to hold a video conference”.

At the ceremony, the President of Afghanistan described the operation of the historic and vital Khaf-Herat railway project as the result of the tireless efforts of both countries in connecting the region and achieving future economic prosperity and said, “I wished to inaugurate this great project in person, but the limitations caused by coronavirus led us to inaugurate this vital project through video conferencing”.

Mr Ashraf Ghani stated, “Completion of this important project, despite the limitations caused by the spread of coronavirus, is a clear sign of the national will of both countries and the product of the efforts of engineers, workers and all people involved of this important project”.

He added, “The inauguration of this historic project will undoubtedly be an important step towards a leap in economic cooperation between the two countries”.

Source: Official website of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 10 December 2020

Iranian Railways Prima diesel locomotive

In case you were wondering, the Iranian Railways Prima diesel locomotive is indeed part of the same Alstom family as the UK’s Class 67 locos. Other related types are found in Syria, Israel and Sri Lanka (Photo: AfRA)

First freight train from Iran to Afghanistan

A trial freight train on 2 December 2020 delivered 500 tonnes of cement on the new railway which runs from Khaf in Iran as far as a station at Rosnak (Rahzanak, روزنک) in Afghanistan’s Herat province.1

A passenger train also ran from Iran to bring officials to and from a meeting with their Afghan counterparts.

Rosnak is on the Islam Qala to Herat road to the north of Ghourian (Ghoryan, غوريان, Ghurian). Construction works can be seen in Bing maps (but not Google Maps). Jono (Jonaw, Junaw) has been mentioned previously as a station; I’m not sure whether this is referring to the same place.2

The new railway is in effect an extension of the Iranian rail network across the border. After many years of proposals, construction officially began in Iran on 29 July 2006. The line is being built in four stages, with the latest section being the 62 km stage 3, and completion of the project has taken a lot longer than was envisaged.

An official opening ceremony for the first three sections of the Khaf to Herat railway is planned for 10 December 2020.

Construction of the fourth stage is being planned, with work to be undertaken in two phases with the first running to Robat Paryan and the second to Herat airport.

The Afghanistan Railway Authority said the line is one of the most important regional connectivity projects, as it will provide the land-locked country with a link to ports and to the rail networks of Iran, Turkey and Europe. Freight traffic is predicted to be around two million tonnes a year and include oil, construction materials and food.

AfRA said the operation of a passenger service is also being considered. Studies when work on the line began estimated that passenger traffic could reach 321 000 passengers/year, and freight traffic 6·8 million tonnes/year.3

Place names

The romanised spelling of the various place names varies quite a bit. If you have strong views on the “correct” versions, now is the time to try to get a standard established!

A note on gauges

The new Iran to Herat railway is 1435 mm (4 ft 8½ in) gauge. Known as “standard gauge”, this is the nost widely used gauge in the world and is found in Iran, Turkey, most of the Middle East, China and most of Europe (except the former USSR, Finland, Iberia and Ireland).

The other railways into Afghanistan from Uzbekistan (1 line) and Turkmenistan (2 lines) use the 1520 mm (5 ft) broad gauge, commonly called “Russian gauge”, which is used instead of 1435 mm in the former USSR, Finland and Mongolia. Pakistan uses the even broader “Indian gauge” of 1676 mm (5 ft 6in), although the network does not reach Afghanistan.

This means that in the event of a hypothetical railway line being built from Herat to Torghundi (for Turkmenistan) or Mazar-i-Sharif (to connect with the line from Uzbekistan) there would have to be a break of gauge somewhere. While gauge-changing trains exist, for most freight you may as well just transfer containers between ordinary wagons of different gauges, which is what happens every day on the border between China and the 1520 mm gauge region.

References

  1. Reported on the Afghanistan Railway Authority’s Facebook page, 2 December 2020. Also BBC News report, اولین قطار حامل بار از ایران وارد افغانستان شد, 2 December 2020
  2. The Iran-Afghanistan border area is not shown in much detail by the free online mapping and aerial photography services that I’ve found…
  3. Opening up Afghan trade route to Iran, Murray Hughes, Railway Gazette International, January 2008

Iran – Herat province railway photos

Iran – Herat railway photos

Test train carries officials from Iran to Afghanistan

A test train has carried officials from Iran and Afghanistan on the 62 km third section of the railway under construction from Khaf in Iran to Afghanistan’s Herat province.1

The train on 28 October 2020 comprised MAPNA/Siemens Safir/Iranrunner diesel locomotive2 number 1540 and two coaches. It ran from Iran as far as Rosank(?) station in Herat province, returning to Iran again in the evening.

Officials from bth countries inspected the line, stations and other installations on the line, which forms the third section of the long-running Khaf – Herat railway project and is expected to be officially opened in the near future.3

The Afghanistan Railway Authority said the new railway would provide the country with access to Iran’s railway network and sea ports, as well as to the railway networks of Turkey and Europe. This would enable Afghanistan merchants to export goods quickly, safely and at a low cost.

(Photos: Afghanistan Railway Authority)

  1. Afghanistan Railway Authority Facebook post, 28 October 2020
  2. See Manufacture of 150 Diesel-Electric Locomotives, MAPNA
  3. Afghanistan Railway Authority Facebook post, 28 October 2020

Turkmen-Afghan talks in the field of transport

TURKMEN-AFGHAN TALKS IN THE FIELD OF TRANSPORT

On April 16, 2020, a video conference was held between the representatives of the “Türkmendemirýollary” agency [=Turkmenistan’s national railway], open joint-stock company “Demiryollary” and the Railway Authority of the Ministry of Transport of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The Turkmen side was headed by the Chairman of the “Türkmendemirýollary” agency A.Atamyradov. The Afghan side was led by the General Director of the Railway Authority of Afghanistan Mohammad Yamma Shams.

During the meeting, issues related to the construction of the Akina-Andkhoy railway line, the work carried out under the project for the construction of the Turgundi-Herat railway were discussed.

The participants also exchanged views on optimizing transit freight traffic and wagons passing through the IRA, further developing of the transport corridor between the Lapis Lazuli agreement participating countries. Separately, issues of obtaining visas for railway workers and other issues were considered.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan

Italian loan for Herat railway project

On 15 January 2020 the Afghan parliament approved a €65m long-term loan from Italy for the Rabat Beryan to Herat airport section of the Khaf – Herat railway project. The 40-year loan with a 29 year grace period will be paid in installments of €40m, €40m and €25m, and no interest will be charged.1

The route from Robat Paryan/Rabat Pariyan to the Herat (هرات‎‎) industrial area and airport forms the ~20 km Stage 4 Phase 2 of the Iran to Herat railway.

  1. House passes Italy loan for railway project, Afghanistan Times, 15 January 2020

Khaf – Herat railway photos

And confirmation of Italian funding for the fourth phase: