German plan for Hayratan – Mazar-i-Sharif railway

A report from the Gulf Times of 31 August 2008.

German army proposes new Afghan rail link

The German military is considering building a railway line in northern Afghanistan to ease transport of Nato supplies to the country and boost economic activity in the area, a German news magazine reported yesterday.

Apart from a short stretch from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan has almost no functioning railways, with less than 25km of track in the entire country. A number of railways leading towards Afghanistan stop short of the border.

The proposed 67km stretch would link the northern city of Mazar-I-Sharif with the Uzbek town of Termez, where the German air force has a base, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

Germany currently has an agreement with Moscow permitting it to transport supplies via rail through Russia to Afghanistan. The new link would greatly ease supplies to Germany’s biggest Afghan base at Mazar-i-Sharif.

The cost of the proposed railway has not been calculated but the military is hoping for financial contributions from Germany’s development agency and from international organisations, stressing the economic benefits, Spiegel said.

The line would connect with an existing Soviet-built rail and road bridge crossing the Amu Darya River which separates the Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. The bridge, built in 1982, was closed by the Taliban in 1997 after they took control of the area and was reopened in late 2001.

Germany and Uzbekistan signed a transit agreement on 4 March 2008.

Update: Here is the original article in Der Spiegel: Bundeswehr plant den Bau einer Bahnlinie in Afghanistan (German army plans to build a railway line in Afghanistan), dated August 30.