Development Comes on a Train for Afghanistan’s Northern Regions is a video about the Mazar-i-Sharif railway published by the Asian Development Bank on 6 Ocotber 2016.
You wait for ages, then two China to Afghanistan freight services start at once.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) August 28, 2016
This second service set off from Yiwu in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province on August 28, carrying 100 containers of goods worth more than US$4m. The 7500 km journey to Mazar-i-Sharif via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was expected to take 15 days. A weekly service is planned by the end of the year.1
The contaners are carried on flat wagons, rather than open wagons as with the train from Nantong.
- First freight train linking Yiwu to Afghanistan departs, Xinhua, 28 August 2016 ↩
“Afghanistan’s once teeming Silk Road border town of Hairatan, a door to Central Asia, sees few travellers these days — its decline a barometer of economic depression in the country’s north”, says AFP.
The Asian Development Bank website has published some photos by Kabul-born documentary photographer Jawad Jalali, who “traveled across Afghanistan to capture the country’s development through his lenses”. He said “the most amazing thing for me is the railway, for the first time I was experiencing a train in our own soil and country.”
According to ADB, “an expanded railway system covering 4,425 kilometers is expected to be developed in the future and is expected to connect the majority of the country’s population centers”.
The report The Humanitarian and Developmental Impact of Anti-Vehicle Mines (PDF) discusses the problems land mines caused for the Hairatan – Mazar-i-Sharif railway construction project:
Late into the execution of the project, [anti-vehicle mines, anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war] were discovered. The initial assessment revealed a 3 sq km area of contamination at an estimated cost of USD 3 million to clear, which came close to matching Afghanistan’s national contribution to the project.
This pattern has been repeated in other infrastructure development projects, particularly with AVMs due their low detectability in Afghanistan. MACCA contacted development projects throughout the country in 2013 and found that a number were in hazardous areas. Out of 430 registered development projects in Afghanistan (roads, bridges, dams, rail, agriculture, electricity expansion), 71 of these projects are affected by mines and ERW, and at least 21 are heavily affected by AT mines, consisting of roughly 225 square kilometres of land.
As a result, MACCA actively encourages a sustainable and continuous process in communication with the development sector; otherwise, as in the case of the railway project, the country suffers huge financial losses that it cannot afford.
Source: The Humanitarian and Developmental Impact of Anti-Vehicle Mines, Geneva International Centre For Humanitarian Demining and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, September 2014, pages 63-64)
On pages 64-65 the report discusses the impact of mines (of the explosive variety) on the Aynak copper mining project.
The Asian Development Bank has published this rather fine photo, captioned:
Railway terminal in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, January 5, 2014. The railway has provided easy transportation for oil, wood, flour, wheat, asphalt and other important products
There is what looks like a TEM2 diesel locomotive in the background.
Despite the date in the caption, the metadata says the picture was taken on 19 December 2013, by Jawad Jalali (presumably this Afghan photographer).
This contract replaces the original 2011 operating contract, which was worth worth $32m/year. On 8 February 2011 UTY established its Sogdiana Trans subsidiary to undertake operations and maintenance in Afghanistan.3
The latest contract runs for three years and will see UTY paid $19m/year to manage the line. UTY will pay taxes, and is to provide training for 50 Afghans each year. Until now the railway has only been used for imports, but the new contract should see the line used to carry a total of at least four million tonnes of Afghan goods for export.
- Upkeep matters: Afghanistan, Uzbekistan renew railway project agreement, Afghanistan Times, 15 March 2015 ↩
- Uzbekistan extends contract on railway maintenance in Afghanistan, Demir Azizov, Trend, 21 March 2015 ↩
- История проекта Sogdiana Trans ↩
Afghanistan Reconstruction & Development Services has published the Afghanistan Railway Authority’s invitation for expressions of interest in three contracts covering the operation, maintenance and management of the Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif railway.
Responses from “experienced, high caliber and competent national and international rail operating, maintenance and management companies” should be submitted to the Ministry of Public Works by 5:00 pm local time on 15 November 2014.
Soliciting expressions of interest is the first step of a possible bidding process. Evaluation would be conducted internally within AfRA/MPW according to Afghan procurement law and procedures. Companies which are shortlisted would be invited to submit their proposals.
The invitation document says the Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif railway comprises 75 km of main line and 63 km of loop line, a total of 138 km, which “went into operation in December 2011 and has been successfully operated, maintained and managed.”
The performance-based operation and maintenance services would include but not be limited to:
- Quantification of assets and characteristics of the railway system
- Required Operations services
- Required Infrastructure Maintenance services
- Required Management services
- Technical specifications and standards
- Necessary equipment for proactive for operations and maintenance
- Performance standards, including benchmarks of operational, rolling stock, and infrastructure asset maintenance; targets of goods to be transported per year; maintenance of infrastructure; correction of defective maintenance; type and availability of trains; procedures for delays, accidents, and incidents; and locomotive and wagon maintenance.
- Outline of the revenue account for revenue deposits, maintained by the operator and transferred at fixed intervals to the owner
- Quality management to meet best industry standards of O&M
- Performance securities and insurance
- Format of a summary of usage report to record operator activities performed
- Establishment of an operating account, outlining costs and revenues
- Environmental management plan
- Description of force majeure events, conditions, or circumstances
- Training for staff on O&M
- Dispute resolution mechanism
Interested companies should demonstrate:
- 10 Years Similar experience in Rail operations, Management and Maintenance of 1520 mm and/or 1435 mm gauges railway lines.
- Reasonable and adequate financial resources
- Regional experience and joint-venture with national firms is plus
- Human resource capacity to operate, manage and carry out infrastructure maintenance
- Adequate machinery, rolling-stock, tools and equipment
- Good performance record
- Companies are advised to provide only materials that are specific to the proposed service as to avoid submitting generic promotional material.
The call for expression of interest also gives AfRA’s description of itself:
Afghanistan Railway Authority (AfRA) is the governing body for all railway planning, development, network, operations and maintenance in Afghanistan.
Based on our vision of long-term rail development, we will ensure all rail stakeholders are, committed to the safety of employees, customers and the public. We feel that a progressive railway network can be operated with integrity, having concern and consideration for our neighbors, the local community, and the environment.
We stand committed to the safe and efficient movement of resources, goods, humans, animals and information material to, from, and through Afghanistan by developing an integrated National Railway Plan, sustainable policies, safety and operational regulations as well as becoming a contributing member of regional and international partnerships.
The AfRA is responsible for legal and regulatory policies governing rail investment, development, and operations. This includes the regulatory oversight needed for a safe, efficient, and reliable rail network. The AfRA is also the sole governing body in charge of planning, survey, design, construction and operations of the entire railway lines in Afghanistan. AfRA will ensure railway companies and stakeholders are engaged corporate citizens, committed to the safety of employees, customers and the public.
“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