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

MCC to commission studies for north-south railway

The Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani has said Chinese copper mining concessionaire MCC should award contracts for surveying railway lines from Kabul to Torkham (on the Khyber Pass border with Pakistan), and from Kabul to Kabul to Ghorband, Bamiyan and Naibabad (for Mazar-i-Sharif and Hayratan).

I think “China Railway(s) Company” is China Railway Group, who undertook work on the Kabul – Jalalabad road.1 However there are a number of Chinese organisations with similar names which can be hard to untangle.

Technical research for Kabul-Mazir and Kabul-Torkham railways begins soon

According to Aynak Copper Project contract, MCC are required to extend the railways sub projects for transportation of copper. Accordingly a meeting took place between the relevant organizations at the Ministry of Mines to discuss the coordination and regular implementation, and, identifying routes for the railway tracks.

The Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani said at the meeting that the preliminary track – from Kabul to Torkham and from Kabul to Mazarisharif via Ghorband, Bamyan and Naybabad to Hairatan – of the railway was determined last year. Now it is necessary for MCC to sign a contract with a company for technical survey though a bidding process.

“The China Railway Company which is familiar with the territory of Afghanistan and have experience in constructing the Polikhomri-Shikhanbander and Kabul-Jalalabad roads, has been identified as being the winning company of the tender, and will begin the technical research for Kabul-Mazar and Kabul-Torkham railways” Said Mr. Shahrani

Mr. Shahrani believed that the creation of railways in Afghanistan is a complex undertaking and therefore there is need for an independent railways organization inside the government.

He 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.

“These railways will not be limited to transportation of minerals, but will be used in different sectors like trading goods etc.” He said.

The exact expenditures of the project will be estimated after the technical research implemented by the China Railways Company.

Source: Ministry of Mines, dated 2011-10-17, published 2011-10-18

  1. Record results for China Railway IPO, China Economic Review, 10 January 2011

Maps of Afghan rail projects

The Ministry of Mines website now features a new photo gallery with some maps of proposed railways.

Map of major rail developments in Afghanistan

The National Resource Corridors map includes a Kabul to Kandahar railway “to be studied”. Historically this route was seen as a priority for developing a national rail network, but in recent years the focus has been on the more stable north of the country.

Map of national resource corridors in Afghanistan

The Regional Rail Networks map shows how things fit into the bigger picture. The Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran line paralleling the Caspian Sea appears to be absent, although recent news reports suggest part of it will open by October this year.

Map of railways in Afghanistan and surrounding countries