ADB photos of Afghan railways

The Asian Development Bank has uploaded some photos of the Hairatan – Mazar-i-Sharif railway to Flickr today.

Unfortunately ABD seems to have turned off the ability to embed the photos on external websites, so to see them try this link: ADB’s Afghanistan photo set and click around the lninks to railway, railroad etc.

The photos include construction work underwayfor the Mazar-i-Sharif line, freight wagons being unloaded, the Afghan deputy minister of city rehabilitation posing in front of a TEM2 in Mazar-i-Sharif in June 2012 (text says 6 June, metadata says 7 June), and a passenger train(! possibly carrying the minister?) with TEM2-6561 hauling an Uzbek Railways liveried coach.

There are lots of other interesting photos of railway projects in Asia.

Hairatan railway photos

A couple of photographs of Hairatan which the Asian Development Bank has uploaded to Flickr. They are dated 27 August 2011 – and I think they might have the captions the wrong way round.

Rail way
“A private wagon enters from Uzbekistan to the border of Afghanistan Hiaratan in the new rail way line.”

Rail way
“Main station of Rail way in Hairatan border between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan new rail way line. “

Government railways department to be formed

According to the 17 October 2011 Ministry of Mines statement which said MCC is to commission a Chinese firm to undertake surveys for railways from Kabul to Torkham and the Hayratan line, Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani “stressed that the creations of most of railways are related to mining projects therefore for the time being all of railways projects will be related to the Ministry of Mines“.1

However, on 19 October 2011 a US$222m grant agreement was signed in Kabul by Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal and the Asian Development Bank’s Country Director Robert Rinker.2 The Minister of Finance said $189m of this was for road projects, according to a news report, while the rest would be used “to establish an independent railways department”. This will be “within the framework of the Ministry of Public Works, which will supervise the construction of rail tracks.”3

The Deputy Public Works Minister, Eng Ahmad Shah Waheed, said a commission led by the presidential advisor on economics affairs and comprising representatives from the ministries of Public Works, Finance, Economy and Commerce has been set up “to evolve a mechanism for the railways department”.

So is there a risk of a turf war between the ministries of Mines and Public Works? I’ve been led to believe that the Minister of Mines is a powerful figure, as mining rights could potentially generate significant income for a country which lacks many source of revenue.

  1. Technical research for Kabul-Mazir and Kabul-Torkham railways begins soon, Ministry of Mines, dated 17 October 2011, published 18 October 2011
  2. ADB Provides $US 222 Million for Roads Construction in Afghanistan, Ministry of Finance, 19 October 2011
  3. ADB to give $222mn for roads, rail tracks to Afghanistan, News Network International, 20 October 2011

Mazar-i-Sharif to Andkhoy railway plans

Some more details are emerging about the plan for a east-west railway, which would start at the terminus of the recently-completed line to Naiababad east of Mazar-i-Sharif, and run across northern Afghanistan to Andkhoy.

The Asian Development Bank approved a US$754m multi-tranche financing facility “to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered road and rail network” on 20 September 2011, and this includes funding for the project; unofficial sources say up to US$300m could be allocated to the railway project, and there is a hope that other sources of funding will be available.

Studies are still to be undertaken, however it is likely that 1520 mm (“Russian”) gauge will be adopted for compatibility with the existing line from Uzbekistan and the 126 (or possible 162) km line which the Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is proposing from Atamyrat across to the Aqina border crossing and Andkvoy; media reports say work on this line could begin in 2012.

Construction of the east-west line could begin in 2013. The contract to build the Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif line was awarded to Uzbek national railway UTY without a competition, because it was believed that given conditions in Afghanistan, the lack of a local rail industry and the reliance on a physical connection to Uzbekistan there was little prospect of anyone else with the right skills and experience bidding. However this second stage will put out to an open tender.

As with the existing line, the focus is again on the freight market.

In the longer term a further extension from Andkhoy to Herat is envisaged if/when Iran completes its line to Herat. This will presumably create a break-of-gauge at Herat, which is probably a sensible place to have one.

ADB funding for Andkhoy extension

The Asian Development Bank approved a US$754m multitranche financing facility “to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered road and rail network” on 20 September 2011.

The money will be used to upgrade 578 km of roads and to fund “construction of new facilities to complement the recently completed train line connecting the northern hub of Mazar-e-Sharif and Uzbekistan.” The 75 km railway will be extended 225 km west, with “new tracks and stations between Mazar-e-Sharif and Andkhoy”.

There is a $33m cofinancing grant from the Afghanistan Infrastructure Trust Fund, while “contributions from Japan and the United Kingdom, will be administered by ADB.”

According to ADB, Afghanistan’s road network “is incomplete, mostly in bad shape, and the railway network is in its infancy”.1

“Infrastructure links the new mineral centers to markets, creates jobs, improves trade, and—perhaps most importantly—provides Afghans with a sense of hope for the future,” said Juan Miranda, ADB’s Director General for Central and West Asia. “With the development of modern road, rail and energy networks, Afghanistan is poised to reap the benefits of its strategic location and become a pivotal crossroads for trade and commerce in the region.”2

Updates will probably appear on ADB’s 44482: Transport Network Development Investment Program webpage.

There is a photo on the ADB website showing some hopper wagons dropping ballast onto the tracks, presumably during construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif line.

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.