Central Asian railway politics

Could the TAT railway become TUT?

Tajikistan is talking about constructing a new railway line that would connect the country to Russia via Uzbekistan. Some poorly considered language was used in the statement about this project and that was seized upon by Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry, which fired off an equally ill-advised statement rebuking Tajikistan.

[…]

the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan (TAT) railway line that finally made it from Turkmenistan into Afghanistan at the end of 2016.

Turkmen authorities might now wonder if Tajikistan could lose interest in TAT should the new railway project from Tajikistan through Uzbekistan advance.

[more…]

The Reasons Behind The Turkmen-Tajik Tiff, Bruce Pannier, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 29 January 2017.

Turkmenistan to Aqina railway reaches Afghanistan

A ceremony was held at Aqina1 in Afghanistan on 30 October 2016 to mark the laying of the final rails for the new railway from Atamurat2 in Turkmenistan to Afghanistan via the border crossing at Imamnazar.3

The new line is around 88 km long, with about 85 km on the section as far as Imamnazar and about 3.55 km on the cross-border secton which runs into Afghanistan.

Guests at the ceremony included Engineer Mahmoud Baligh, Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Works (the MPW includes the Afghanistan Railway Authority), Turkmenistan’s Minister of Railways and the country’s Ambassador to Kabul,4 Special Envoy to the President of Afghanistan on the CIS countries Shakir Kargar as well as representatives of the railway builders, media and local authorities.5

Atendees “greeted the symbolic moment with the storm of applause” when a “powerful tracklaying machine of the construction units of the Ministry of Railway Transport of Turkmenistan” laid the final rails and sleepers.6 Minister of Public Works Mahmood Baligh said co-operation with Turkmenistan to build the railway network would not only be beneficial for neighbouring countries and peoples, but would also contribute to widening mutually beneficial regional and international economic co-operation that meets the interests of peace, stability and sustainable development.

Laying the final rails for the railway from Atamurat to Afghanistan

Construction of the line is now almost finished, and the presidents of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan are scheduled to attend an opening ceremony on 28 November 2016.7.

The project included the construction of two 5.8 m wide bridges over the River Karakum, one 363 m long and one 256 m long, which were built by Turkmenistan in co-operation with specialists from Ukrainian company Altcom.8

The next phase of the line will run for 33 km within Afghanistan from Aqina to Andkhoy.9

The new line is intended to form the first stage of the TAT Railway corridor linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Construction had been launched by the presidents of the three countries with a ceremony on 5 June 2013.

Announcing the completion of the first section of the route, Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Foreign Afairs said the new railway “is intended to become an important link in the international transport, to encourage trade relations between the countries of the region and give a strong impetus to the restoration of the Afghan economy”, and would “contribute to the solution of social issues, ensuring employment of the population.”

The importance and potential of the new railway, which will connect Turkmenistan and Afghanistan with the economic ties, is proved by the intense freight traffic flow passing through the Ymamnazar customs post. Turkmenistan exports oil products, liquefied gas, carbamide, cement, grain, licorice, carbon, cotton seed oil, Saradja wool, etc. Moreover, large transit consignments of humanitarian and other cargoes pass through the Ymamnazar customs post. Citrus and fruits transiting through Afghanistan are registered as import. A number of food products are transported to the neighbouring countries of the region and Europe through territory of Turkmenistan.
Source: Turkmen construction specialists mounted the final joints of the first stage of the Asian railway in Akina, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan: The Golden Age, 30 November 2016.

References

  1. Also written Akina, Aqeena etc
  2. Or Atamyrat, and formerly Kerki
  3. Countless spellings including Ymamnazar, Ymam Nazar, Ymymnazar etc, sometimes inconsistently within the same official text
  4. شروع كار ريل گذاري خط آهن بندر آقينه با حضور وزير فوايد عامه، نماينده… , Ministry of Public Works, 1 November 2016
  5. The construction of the first phase of an international railway corridor Turkmenistan – Afghanistan completed, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, 2016
  6. Turkmen construction specialists mounted the final joints of the first stage of the Asian railway in Akina, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan: The Golden Age, 30 November 2016
  7. Asian International Railway Corridor, Regional Economic Cooperation Conference for Afghanistan, 1 November 2016
  8. Altcom previously built a road bridge over the Amu Darya.
  9. Various similar spellings

President Berdimuhamedov inspects construction of TAT railway

Map of the Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Tajikistan railway project

President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov reviewed the construction of the Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Tajikistan railway during a working visit to Lebap velayat, Turkmenistan: the Golden Age reports.1

He travelled from Turkmenabat Airport by helicopter to Ymamnazar (or Immamnazar, or various other spellings), “where construction of Atamyrat – Ymamnazar – Akina – Andhoy steel line undergoes at full pace”. At Ymamnazar received reports about the customs facilities which handle Around 250 – 300 trucks per day, then visted an hydrocarbon terminal where “construction is at the final stage”. The terminal includes a “Railway loading rack for hydrocarbons”.

He then went to the future Ymamnazar station. As of the date of the visit, 85 km of earthworks had been built on the Atamyrat – Ymamnazar line, 82.2 km “filled with sand and gravel mixture”, 82 km of rails had been laid and a road parallel to the railway had been prepared. The earthworks on the Afghan sectioon of the railway to Akinoy “is prepared”, and construction works at two Gulistan and Ymamnazar stations “are at the final stages”.

“This railway is summoned to become the road of friendship and cooperation of the countries of the region and reliable transport main. Realization of this project, besides economic benefits, will open wide opportunities for integration of participating countries into the international economy at equal partnership.”
Turkmenistan: the Golden Age

Deputy Chairman of Cabinet of Ministers S Satlykov and Minister of Transport B Annameredov provided the president with information about the railway project. The President “expressed his interest in rates and quality of construction works at other parts of the railway”, and “emphasized that deadline for putting into operation of the railway are important requirements for construction of this complex engineering and technical infrastructure”.

During his return flight to Turkmenabat the President saw the work underway on two bridges on the Atamyrat – Ymamnazar – Akina railway. These bridges are 5 m wide, with the bridge at the 15 Years of Independence lake being 256m long and the bridge over the Karakum River being 363 m long. Construction of the reinforced concrete piers has been completed, and temporary piers and metalwork are being installed.

“Successful realization of the construction project of this strategic transport corridor will provide not only further steadfast social and economic development of Lebap region but the whole Turkmenistan as well. As it was mentioned above, the right bank of the Amudarya River has unique deposits of natural reserves. Establishment of reliable railway connection will serve as key factor of rapid development of this countless treasury.”
Turkmenistan: the Golden Age

I can’t seem to find any photos of this presidential trip, but I suspect there might be some out there somewhere – do let me know if you spot any!

References

TAT railway progress

Turkmenistan’s state news agency TDH has published an update on the TAT Railway project: News about the international Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway project (TDH, 28 June 2016).

This says construction of the Atamyrat to Imanazar1 section of the TAT Railway is “well underway”, and is being implemented by the Ministry of Railway Transport of Turkmenistan “at an accelerated pace”.

The railway now runs for 80 km to the site of Imanazar station. Power transmission lines, the Gulistan and Imanazar stations, and two railway bridges 363 m and 256 m long are under construction.

TDH says this section of the line is of great importance, as it will support the industrial development of Lebap velayat (province) including a potash fertiliser mining and processing plant which is under construction. The new line will also “undoubtedly give new impetus to development of interstate trade-economic relations, promote the steady growth of their trade turnover and expand the regional transport, industrial and social infrastructure.”

  1. Also written Ymamnazar, Ymam Nazar, Ymymnazar etc

Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister at Afghan railway ceremony

Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov made a rare and little publicized visit to three northwestern Afghan provinces at the end of June.
[…]
Officially, Meredov was there to discuss bilateral projects. He participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway in the town of Akina in Faryab Province
[…]
Source: Majlis Podcast: Turkmenistan’s Afghan Dilemma, Bruce Pannier, RFE/RL, 2 July 2016

Lapis Lazuli railway inauguration soon

Lapis-lazuli hg
A piece of lapis lazuli from Afghanistan.

During a recent visit to Aqina in Faryab province, Mohammad Shakir Kargar, the Afghan President’s advisor on Central Asian affairs, gave officials the go-ahead for the creation of “security, cultural, infrastructure development, transport and protocol committees” for the start of work on an 36 km railway from Aqina to Andkhoy, reports Pajhwok Afghan News.1

Design work is to be completed over the next two to three months, and construction is to start soon. Faryab province Governor Syed Anwar Sadaat said preliminary works had already begun, and arrangements were being made for a the leaders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to attend a ceremony in Aqina to launch the project.

This line would be an extension of the railway from Turkmenistan to Aqina which is nearing completion (perhaps the start of work on the next section will be combined with an opening ceremony?).

Kargar said freight traffic at Aqina is prdicted to be 3.5 million tonnes in the first year, and 10 million tonnes by 2020. He said the Asian Development Bank would provide $200m for another section of line to connect the current projects with the existing railway from Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif.

The link from Turkmenistan to northern Afghanistan forms part of the “Lapis Lazuli corridor”, a concept for improving road and rail links between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, harmonising customs systems and removing other obstacles to trade.

  1. Lapis Lazuli railroad project to be inaugurated in 3 months“, Qutbuddin Kohi, Pajhwok Afghan News, 16 February 2016

ADB suspends TAT railway funding

According to a news report, on 15 December 2015 the Asian Development Bank’s Country Director for Tajikistan, Si Si Yu, told reporters that ADB had suspended its financial support for the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway owing to security risks.1

“Although Turkmenistan has completed construction of its section of the railway, we do not intend to finance construction of a railway in country where (Afghanistan) security is not guaranteed,” Yu said. “It’s very risky.” He said the ADB would “probably” return to the project “when the security situation in Afghanistan improves.”

I can’t any other reports on this, or an official announcement from ADB.

References

  1. ADB cuts support for construction of Afghan railway, Harun Varlı, Videonews, 16 December 2015

Turkmenistan’s Afghan border rail link nears completion


View Turkmenistan – Andkhoy railway plan in a larger map

Turkmenistan has completed construction of the 85 km Atamurat1 – Imamnazar2 section of the future Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Tajikistan railway, Trend News Agency reports,3 citing a message from the Turkmen government (I can’t find this message – does anyone know if it is available online?).

Construction of the line was ceremonially launched on 5 June 2013. Earthworks are visible on Google Maps satellite photos, running in a straight line southwest from Atamurat.

Trend says two bridges and two stations are still to be completed, along with the final 3 km from Imamnazar in Turkmenistan across the border to Akina4 in Afghanistan. A planned 35 km continuation within Afghanistan would take the line to Andkhoy.

In the longer term, this line would be extended though northern Afghanistan to Tajikistan. “Commissioning of the railway will make this route an inseparable link of the modern ramified transport and communications infrastructure in the Asian region”, Turkmenistan’s official new agency said in September 2015.5

According to Turkmenistan’s offical website Golden Age, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani recently had a telephone conversation “on the initiative of the Afghan side”. During this conversation, Ghani “expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Turkmen leader for laying a section of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway to the border of Afghanistan”.6

References

  1. Also written Atamyrat; formerly known as Kerki
  2. Also written Ymamnazar, etc
  3. Turkmenistan builds railway to Afghan borders, Huseyn Hasanov, Trend News Agency, 17 November 2015
  4. Also written Aqina, Acqina etc
  5. President of Turkmenistan received the governmental delegation of Afghanistan, Türkmen döwlet habarlar agentligi, 17 September 2015
  6. Telephone conversation between the leaders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, The Golden Age, 9 November 2015

ACI design manager visits Canarail

Appleton Consulting Inc. is pleased to announce that one of its principal staff – Hasaun Shahir – as National Railway Track Design Engineer had been invited by its partner CANARAIL consulting head office to Montreal, Quebec (Canada) on the Northern Afghanistan Railway Study project.

The purpose of the visit was to coordinate and discuss various disciplines of the project and ensure everything was going well as per the client’s requirements.

[more…]

Source: ACI’s Design Manager Visits Canadian Strategic Partner’s Railway Design Team in Canada, Appleton Consulting Inc, 21 June 2015