Turkmenistan – Afghanistan rail link to be completed in June 2015

On 10 January 2014 The Times Of Central Asia reported that “Additional forces were sent for construction of Atamyrat-Imamnazar (85 km) site of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway“, citing Altyn Asir (Golden Age) TV.

The report says completion had been planned for the end of 2016, but has now been brought forward to June 2015. The 400 km route between Atamurat, Imamnazar, Aqina, Andkhoy, Panj and Tajikistan “will be implemented by 2015”

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 RailwayGazette.com…]

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.

Tajik rail link rethought?

“Afghan Province Upset At Being Left Out Of Touted Rail Network”, reports Abubakar Siddique at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on 31 July 2013.

The planned railway across northern Afghanistan from the Turkmenistan border to Andkhoy and then east to Tajikistan was due to connect with an extension of the Tajik railway network at Shirkhan Bandar in Kunduz province.

But a new, shorter route given tentative approval this month by the Afghan Public Works Ministry would bypass Konduz by linking the neighboring Afghan province of Balkh to Tajikistan at a point further west along the two countries’ common border.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Governor of Kunduz, Mohammad Anwar Jagdalak, is unimpressed. He told RFE/RL “This new proposed link will prove disastrous for Shir Khan Bandar,” and “We are petitioning our president to plead that the move violates the principle of balanced regional development.”

Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Works Najibullah Ojan told RFE/RL that the time and cost needed to complete the “momentous project” had led the authorities to consider building a 50-60 km temporary rail link on a shorter route, but this line would be dismantled once the longer route via Kunduz was completed in “about four years”.

Presidents launch construction of Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Tajikistan railway

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon were in Atamyrat on 5 June 2013 for an elaborate ceremony to launch construction of the first phase of a railway planned to link the three countries.


The helicopters took the leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan from the airport in Turkmenabat to Atamyrat town, where the ceremony would be held. The leaders of Turkmenistan, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan signed a message to the descendants, put it into a capsule and poured the first shovels of concrete, thus giving a kick-start to the construction of the new railway.
Source: Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway to be built, State News Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH), Turkmenistan: the Golden Age Online Newspaper, 5 June 2013

Design work for the initial 85 km from Atamyrat (formerly called Kerki) to the Imamnazar border crossing between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan was completed in 2012. Following a March 2013 meeting between the presidents, Afghanistan formally invited the Turkmen authorities to undertake studies for a 38 km continuation across the border to Aqina and Andkhvoy. This could be funded and built by Turkmenistan. It would provide a second rail link between the countries, in addition to the line to Towraghondi.

The longer-term plan is to continue the new railway across northern Afghanistan to Sherkhan Bandar and Tajikistan.

…[the Presidents] of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan arrived by helicopter at Atamyrat station. Here, the leaders of three countries signed a letter addressed to posterity, put it in a capsule and place it in concrete, thus giving a symbolic start to construction of a new railway. In their presence, the first rails of Atamyrat-Imamnazar-Akina-Andhoi section of the main railway were laid. This section is stretching for 123 kilometers. The Turkmen part of the railway from Atamyrat station to Akina station, the first station of the new railway in Afghanistan, will be constructed by Turkmen specialists. The length of this portion is 87 kilometers.

Source: Construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway launched, Turkmenistan.ru, 6 June 2013.

Work to start on Turkmenistan – Afghanistan rail link

“Presidents of Afghanistan and Tajikistan to participate in starting construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway” reports Turkmenistan.ru. It looks like the a ceremony to mark the official start of work on the new Turkmenistan to Afghanistan railway is to be held on 5 June 2013.

Background at: Three countries agree rail link co-ordination, Railway Gazette International, 25 April 2013.

Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan sign railway construction MoU

MoU of Railway Construction Signed between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan

March 20, 2013- On his first day of the visit, President Hamid Karzai attended a trilateral summit held in Ashgabat between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

At the end of the summit, the three Presidents signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of rail transport infrastructure linking Turkmenistan and the Islamic Afghanistan and Afghanistan and the Republic of Tajikistan.

According to the memorandum, the Parties within one month from the date of signing of this Memorandum will hold experts meeting from the relevant ministries and agencies of the three countries for detailed study of routes, as well as organizational, legal and financial bases for the practical implementation of the railway construction project. The construction of this railway will begin in early July of the current year.

The railway will start from Atamurat -Ymamnazar of Turkmenistan leading to Akina-Andkhoy of Afghanistan, then connecting to Tajikistan via Shirkhan port of Kunduz province .

Following the signing ceremony, the three Presidents attended a joint press conference where they described this project as important for enhanced trade and economic development of countries in the region.

At the press conference, President Karzai said that this railway would not only link Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan but it would also play an important role in strengthening economies of countries and peoples in this region.

The President added, by signing the memorandum, they took another step for their peoples’ well-being which would result in economic growth for the three countries, bringing them a brighter future.

President Karzai is scheduled to attend Nowruz International Festival tomorrow

Source: Office of the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 20 March 2013

There is also a statement from the Government of Turkmenistan (in Russian), but it doesn’t add anything.

Andkhoy railway studies complete, work to start ‘soon’

Design studies for the second Turkmenistan – Afghanistan railway line have been completed, and work will start “soon”, the Afghan President’s office reports following a meeting between Presidents Karzai and Berdimuhamedov in Türkmenbaşy on 25 January 2012.

… President Karzai met Wednesday morning President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to discuss a number of important economic projects including the TAPI, the Afghan-Turkmenistan railway and electricity export to Afghanistan.
Accompanying the President on the trip was Afghan Mining Minister, who said a design and full study of a separate project involving the establishment of an 84 km of railway extending across the Atamyrat-Ymamnazar in Turkmenistan to Akina-Andhoi in Afghanistan had been finalized with actual work expected to begin soon.

Source: Afghan and Turkmen Presidents Vow to Implement Critical Projects, Office of the President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 26 January 2012

From Turkmenistan comes this report:

The Presidents also noted the great potential of cooperation in transportation and communications sector. They discussed the project on construction of the railway Atamyrat-Ymamnazar-Akin-Andhoy. A framework agreement on construction of this railway was signed during the official visit by the President of Turkmenistan to Afghanistan in May 2011. According to the interlocutors, construction and commissioning of the new railway will not only serve the development of transport infrastructure in Afghanistan but can become a significant element in the regional and international transit transportation in the long term.
Source: Turkmen-Afghan high level talks held in Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan.ru, 26 January 2012

Here is a map I put together previously:

View Turkmenistan – Andkhoy railway plan in a larger map

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.

UTY to build next section of railway?

Uzbekistan Railways To Help Build Afghan Railway System

Uzbekistan Railways is to construct a new railway from Mazar-e-Sharif to Andkhoy in western Afghanistan, according to the Uzbek company.

This railway section is part of the project to construct a railroad in Afghanistan with a total length of 2,000 kilometers from Mazar-e-Sharif through Kabul and Kandahar to Herat and back.


Minimum income of Uzbekistan Railways from the operation of the Hairatan Mazar-e-Sharif railroad section in Afghanistan during 2011-2013 will be $96 million.

Source: Uzbekistan Railways To Help Build Afghan Railway System, AsiaPulse News, 2011-09-30