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

Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif railway management contracts planned

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:

  1. 10 Years Similar experience in Rail operations, Management and Maintenance of 1520 mm and/or 1435 mm gauges railway lines.
  2. Reasonable and adequate financial resources
  3. Regional experience and joint-venture with national firms is plus
  4. Human resource capacity to operate, manage and carry out infrastructure maintenance
  5. Adequate machinery, rolling-stock, tools and equipment
  6. Good performance record
  7. 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 line needs money and security

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

Afghan railway station codes created

The Afghanistan Railway Authority (AfRA), following the creation of Afghanistan Country Code, for the first time in history of the country, has created Codes for the Afghanistan Railway Stations on the International Railway System Database.

This comes as a result of AfRA’s membership to the International Union of Railways (UIC) as well as the Organisation of Cooperation of Railways (OSJD).

The Station Codes will allow importers/exporters to book freight from anywhere in the world which was previously not possible, and bookings were made using neighbouring countries’ codes.

Source: Afghanistan Railway Authority Facebook page, 27 September 2014

Afghanistan allocated Railway Country Code

Railway Country Code 68 has been assigned to Afghanistan by the International Union of Railway (UIC) and the Organisation for Cooperation Between Railways (OSJD), the Afghanistan Railway Authority has announced.

AfRA said “all current railway stations, such as Hairatan, Naibabad and Mazar-e-Sharif will also be assigned Station Codes, to enable location identification for rail operations movements.”

Afghanistan joins OSJD

The Organisation for Cooperation Between Railways (OSJD or ОСЖД) approved Afghanistan Railway Authority’s request for membership on 6 June 2014, with Afghanistan becoming the 28th country to join.

The XLII session accepted the application of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for OSJD membership and accession to the SMPS and SMGS Agreement.
Source: XLII session of OSJD Ministers (Vilnius, 3 – 6 June 2014), UIC eNews No.404, 17 June 2014

OSJD was established in 1956 to promote technical co-operation and provide a common legal framework to facilitate international passenger and freight transport between member states. Its members are mostly in the former USSR and Eastern Europe, and also include Iran, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba (presumably there is not much through-running to Cuba).

The Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) does similar things in western Europe and beyond; some countries are members of both OSJD and OTIF (if you think this is a confusing acroynm-fest, note that at the XLII session of OSJD Ministers, UIC, CCTT and OTIF all signed MOUs with OSJD…).

In order for Afghanistan railways to connect and integrate with regional and international rail networks, the Afghanistan Railway Authority must align its policies and regulations with that of regional and international organisations such as the International Union of Railways (UIC), Organisation for Carriage of International Freight by Rail (OTIF) and the Organisation for Cooperation between Railways OSJD.
Source: Afghanistan’s Membership to the Organization for Cooperation of Railways (OSJD) Ministry of Public Works/Afghanistan Railway Authority, 25 June 2014

The Afghanistan Railway Authority joined the International Union of Railways (UIC) at the end of 2013.