Photos of development in Afghanistan

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”.

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 spot any other reports on this, or an official announcement from ADB.


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

Photo of the Mazar-i-Sharif rail freight terminal

42533-022: Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif Railway Project in Afghanistan

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).

CAREC railway plans

The 14th CAREC Transport Sector Coordinating Committee Meeting was held in Ulaanbaatar on 28-29 April 2015. Its webpage links to various presentations, which seem to contain some good stuff about Afghan and Central Asian railway development plans in a mixture of English and Russian.

One presentation by Kubatbek Rakhimov covers the Railway Development in Central Asia. The review of the Soviet period up to the present. This provides a quick overview of the strategic issues, in particular the problems arrising as a result of the unified Soviet rail network being fragmented as the USSR disolved and the newly-independent countries focused on building bypasses with their territory rather than on developing international corridors.

There was a presentation on the future CAREC railway network by ADB consultant Thomas Kennedy. This says the “new railway country of Afghanistan offers new route potential”. It explains that CAREC railways are still in the transition from a command economy to a market-based structure, while road transport is becoming more competitive, and there is a shift in trading partners and routes as China gains economic significance. There is a need to agree on a near-term strategic vision for CAREC railways, which also need changes in four primary areas: political/institutional, infrastructure, intergration/interoperability, technical. The most critical aspect is that railways need to understand the costs of their own services, as this is essential for setting pricing policies, business agreements and track access charges.

Kennedy concludes by saying the next step should be to identify a “designated rail corridor” for development as a pilot. This sounds like the situation in the EU, where it became apparent that it makes more sense to focus on international corridors, rather than on separate national projects which could end up leaving bottlenecks on important routes.

The CAREC Working Group on Railways sets out timescales, and sets out a two year timescale for the Khorgas – Tashkent – Termez – Mazar-i-Sharif or Aqina – Turkmenabat – Ashgabat – Aktau routes.

EU grant for the Afghanistan Railway Authority

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved the administration of a European Union (EU) grant for the Transport Network Development Investment Program. The EU grant will help upgrade the Afghanistan Railway Authority and support efficiency improvements for traffic moving along CAREC Corridors 5 and 6 in Afghanistan, and across key cross border points as part of the fourth tranche of financing for the program. The program, which was approved in 2011, is supporting infrastructure upgrades and improved sector governance to strengthen access to domestic and international markets, which in turn will support increased trade, job creation and economic growth.

$109 million grant from ADB’s concessional Asian Development Fund. Cofinancing grant of up to $21 million equivalent from the EU, administered by ADB.

Source: Afghanistan – Transport Network Program Administration of Grant New Briefs, Asian Development Bank, 12 December 2014

ADB article on Mazar-i-Sharif railway construction project

The Asian Development Bank has published an article Innovative Project Management and Coordination Speed Up Afghanistan Railway Project. This describes how the Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif line was “completed in record time” – basically by building on existing plans, awarding a turnkey contact, and chucking plenty of money at it.

The January 2014 article, Issue 51 in ADB’s Knowledge Showcases series, is by Balabhaskara Reddy Bathula, senior transport specialist at ADB’s Central and West Asia Department. He was the project officer involved in the entire process, from technical assistance processing to construction and “operationalizing” of the line.

Worth a read.

Ministry of Public Works commissions railway study

Canarail and Appleton Consulting are to undertake a 12-month feasibility study which will look into 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.

Railway Gazette story with more details:

Afghan government commissions east – west rail study

AFGHANISTAN: The Ministry of Public Works has commissioned a feasibility study for a proposed 300 km east – west railway across northern Afghanistan.

The C$3·7m contract announced on December 11 has been awarded to Systra’s Canadian freight railway consultancy Canarail and its partner Appleton Consulting Inc, which specialises in programme management for projects in Afghanistan.

[More at…]

The Canarail announcement:


Canadian Rail Specialist signs a contract with the Ministry of Public Works of Afghanistan

Montreal, CANADA, December 10, 2013 – CANARAIL’s President and CEO, Mr. Miguel Valero, is proud to announce, along with its Kabul-based partner Appleton Consulting Inc., the signing of a contract with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to carry out a 300 km railway feasibility study in Northern Afghanistan. Funding for this project comes from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Building on the conclusions and recommendations of ADB’s Railway Development Study and with the objective to extend the now operational Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif Railway, the Government contemplates the construction of a railway heading west from Mazar-e-Sharif through Sheberghan and Andkhoy to Acqina to link with Turkmenistan, and of another railway heading northeast from Mazar-e-Sharif to the border with Tajikistan.

If proved feasible, the extension of the existing railway in both east and west directions will foster cross border and regional trade, increase rail usage, ensure the viability of the initial railway investment, and introduce competition in rail operations.

“Afghanistan has a vast potential for developing the mineral extraction sector, which may be an engine of self-sustaining economic growth in the near future. The decision to award this study to CANARAIL is another demonstration that we stand as a strong and reliable source of expertise for railway matters all over the world. We are very proud to become  Afghanistan and Asian Development Bank’s partner in identifying long term solutions for rail transportation in Afghanistan and in the region and to act as a platform for economic growth.” said Mr. Valero who is just coming back from Kabul where he finalized the contract negotiations.

CANARAIL possesses a unique expertise in rail transport, with a strong focus on heavy haul and mining sectors. Its experts have participated in major projects on an international scale over the last 20 years, contributing to the completion of some of the most important railway projects worldwide.

Despite its vast international experience and track record in the provision of rail services, this is CANARAIL’s first significant gain in Afghanistan and in the region. This success was made possible by its partnership with Appleton Consulting Inc. (ACI), a Canadian firm specialized in programme management for Afghanistan-based projects.


Founded in 1991, CANARAIL is a CANADA-based rail consulting and engineering firm that specializes in mining, heavy haul freight, and urban domains. CANARAIL is known for its expertise in feasibility studies, consulting, detailed design, and the supervision of construction of major projects. Over the last 21 years, CANARAIL has participated in over 500 projects in Canada, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, North America, Australia, Europe, and Latin America. CANARAIL is headquartered in Montreal and is part of the French group SYSTRA, the world’s largest rail engineering organization.


Appleton Consulting Inc. (ACI) is an international business consulting company that focuses on enabling unique business solutions for emerging and developing market sectors. Getting its start in Afghanistan in 2007, Appleton has participated in $400M USD dollars worth of projects with its clients and partners.  Appleton has a wide range of services for its local and international clients including project management, design services, strategic partnership development, proposal writing, supply chain management, training, and environmental consulting services.

Source: Canarail press release, 10 December 2013.