ADB funding more studies

On 16 June 2010 Asian Development Bank approved a further USD700 000 from its Technical Assistance Special Fund for:

A study on railway development for Afghanistan completed for the following routes: (i) From Hairatan at the border with Uzbekistan to Heart [Herat] in the west, via Mazar-e-Sharif; (ii) from Shirkhan Bendar at the border with Tajikistan, via Kunduz to Naibabad [which is on the line under construction from Hayratan] joining Mazar-e-Sharif to Heart; (iii) from Torkham at the border with Pakistan to Jalalabad; and (iv) Spainboldak at the border with Pakistan to Kandahar.

Source: Railway Development Study (Supplementary) : Afghani., Is Rep. of, 2010-06-16

Taking it literally, this seems to miss out the link needed from Chaman in Pakistan over the border to Spin Boldak in Afghanistan.

Agreement signed for north-south corridor studies

This looks potentially significant, although the words if feasible are probably quite important. I will try to study the announcement in more detail later this week.

MINISTER SHAHRANI SIGNS HISTORIC RAILWAY AGREEMENT

Kabul: September 22, 2010

Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani today signed an historic agreement with the China Metallurgical Company (MCC) for a railway to connect Kabul to Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
This northern railway project is part of the Aynak Copper Mine Contract, signed between the Government and MCC. The contract specifies that MCC constructs a railway, if feasible, from northern Pakistan through Kabul to southern Uzbekistan. This rail link will connect Afghanistan to the railways of Pakistan, India, and South East Asia and to the extensive rail system of China, Europe and Central Asia.

Minister Shahrani said, ‘When complete, the railways will give substantial benefits for the Afghan economy in trade, employment and cheaper prices. This northern railway is part of a wider plan to extend the Afghan rail network to connect Afghanistan to ports in Iran and Pakistan.’

The next step is for MCC to commission and fund a competitive tender for a feasibility study to examine the preferred route proposed by the Government’s Inter-Ministerial Railway Committee. It will take up to two years for the detailed route study and another six months to complete the full feasibility study.

The feasibility of the second part of the railway, from Kabul through Bamyan, Doshe, Kunduse, Niadabob, Hairetan and on to Uzbekistan, will be studied for an additional 18 months with construction to follow.

MCC will build the railway according to the ‘BOOT’ principle – ‘Build, Own, Operate and Transfer’. MCC will own the railway until it has recovered its capital costs through collecting transport fees. The details of the BOOT Agreement will be negotiated once the Government have approved the feasibility study prepared by a independent contractor funded by MCC.

The railway will be designed to have the size and capacity to carry the heaviest of loads – copper cathodes, copper concentrates, and commercial goods for transit, agricultural products, passengers and normal freight.

MCC will employ Afghan labor as much as possible in the construction and operation of the railway. Prior to the transfer of ownership to the Government, MCC will complete a training program for Afghan workers to operate the railway. The training will range from

basic functions to high level executive management.
Estimated costs for the entire railway range from US $ 4 –5 billion. Completion of the entire route could be within five years from starting the detailed route survey.

Benefits
The opening the new railway will bring many benefits to Afghanistan. Costs of goods and services will fall due to lower transportation costs. Huge economic and social development opportunities will arise along the rail route as companies switch from road to rail transport. The mining and extractive industries will become more cost effective along the resource corridor developed with the railway.
Source: Ministry of Mines, 2010-09-22

MCC to build Kunduz – Jalalabad railway

“75km Railway to be Completed in Afghanistan”, reported TOLOnews on 2 August 2010. Work is “50 percent completed”, and there is a new opening date: “I hope the construction of this rail-road will be completed by the end of March, 2011,” said the Minister of Public Works, Abdul Qudoos Hamidi.

There is also this hint at something much bigger in the pipeline:

The ministry also adds that the Afghan government is planning to build 700km rail-road that will connect the capital Kabul with the northern province of Kunduz and the eastern city of Jalalabad.

The railway will be built by the MCC Chinese Company.

“The primary studies of this rail-road have already started, and its contract will be signed soon,” said Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ahmad Shah Wahid.

Source: TOLOnews, 2010-08-02

MCC is presumably China Metallurgical Group Corporation (rather than the other MCC). The Chinese group was selected for a concession to develop the Aynak copper deposits in 2007, with a railway proposed as part of the project.

The plan which seems to be firming up is to build a new north-south railway starting from Tajikistan. There would be a new line from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, to the Tajik-Afghan border near Kunduz. The route would then run through Afghanistan from Kunduz to Kabul and the Aynak mining area, continuing on to Jalalabad. There would then be an onward link to the Pakistan Railways network, joining the line through the Khyber Pass to access to Pakistan’s coast.

Pakistan keeps talking about reinstating the out-of-action Khyber Pass line and extending it to Torkham (the Afghan border town) and possibly Jalalabad (the first major town in Afghanistan). However Pakistan Railways is reported to be facing serious financial and structural problems at present.

And as a correspondent points out, “railroads are built with money, not signed agreements to build railroads”.

ECO train returns

The Istanbul – Tehran – Islamabad eastbound return working of last year’s westbound Economic Cooperation Organization train left Istanbul on August 2, running via Iran’s Bam – Zahedan line.

The eastbound train of vans and container wagons – seen here in Turkey – was due to arrive in Islamabad on August 13, a faster transit time than last year’s train.

Does anyone know if it successfully made it to Iran and Pakistan?

Kandahar and Jalalabad studies

The technical studies of Kandahar-Quetta and Jalalabad-Peshawar railway, which will be completed in four months, are handed over to the Hampton and Branchville Railroad Company.
Source: Quqnoos.com, 2010-07-08

The H&BR appears to be a 40 mile shortline in South Carolina with eight locos and 14 staff… on the face of it, not the most obvious firm to carry out feasibility studies in Afghanistan?

Memorandum for Kandahar and Jalalabad railways

Has anyone got a copy of the text of the joint communique?

Pakistan, Afghanistan agree to establish rail links

By Sajid Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for establishing the Torkham-Jalalabad and Chaman-Spinboldak-Kandhar rail links.

The MoU, covering feasibility studies for both the projects, was signed by Federal Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour and Afghan Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal on Wednesday.

However, both countries failed to break the deadlock over the transit facility for Indian goods that would be sent to Afghanistan via Pakistan under the proposed Afghan -Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).
[More…]
Source: Daily Times, 2010-07-08

The Jalalabad plan presumably means rehabilitating the Khyber Pass line and then extending it over the border into Afghanistan for the first time.

Pakistan and Iran to Turkmenistan and China by rail

Railway from Torkham to Amo Darya connects Middle Asia to Indian Ocean

Dip Engineer M Ibrahim Adel Minister of Mine of Afghanistan met with Abdul Rahim Ashur Minister of Transport and communication of Tajikestan.

Dr Jalil Shams Minister of Economy, Ministry of Mine of Afghanistan deputies and deputies from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, education and agriculture of Tajikestan also participated in the meeting.

The Minister of Mines explained the Aynak copper project to Tajikistan delegation, “a part of the Aynak project would be to extend the railway from Amo Darya to Torkham, the other parts of the railway would be in Pakistan and china that connects middle Asia to Indian Ocean in Karachi in Pakistan and Bandar Abbas in Iran“, Said Minister of Mines of Afghanistan.

[…]

“We believe that Aynak Copper Project is the start for Afghanistan to use the natural resources “, said Minister of Transport and communication of Tajikistan. He also hoped to increase the facilitated transportation between Afghanistan and Tajikistan to obtain benefits from each others resources.

Minister Ashur also noted that the 1783 Km distance from Kabul- Tashghar is shortest way to connect middle Asia to china and the government of Tajikistan is ready to make more facilities for this issue.

He also said: “whenever the Afghanistan government wants to, we are ready to negotiate about Amo Darya River “.
Source: Ministry of Mines, 2010-05-10

Railway Gazette International on Afghan rail plans

Railway Gazette International on the latest Afghan rail plans:

Afghan rail strategy takes shape

[…]
The first phase would start at Sher Khan Bandar on the Tajik border, connect at Naibabad with the 1520 mm gauge line now under construction from Uzbekistan, and continue through Mazar-i-Sharif to Herat, with the possibility of a link to the Turkmemistan Railways line at Towraghondi. A branch would run from Shirbirghan via Andkhvoy to the Aqina border crossing with Turkmenistan.
[…]
A second phase would see a Chinese-backed line built from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul, Jalalabad and Torkham, near the Khyber Pass. The long-proposed extension of Pakistan Railways’ Chaman line to Kandahar is also planned.
Source: Railway Gazette International, 2010-06-28