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Afghanistan Opens Up to the World: Building a 5,000-Kilometre Railway

Afghanistan Opens Up to the World: Building a 5,000-Kilometre Railway
photo: / Free for commercial use/Afghanistan
07 / 06 / 2024

Afghanistan is planning an extensive rail network that will connect the country to key ports and neighboring countries. It also has the potential to bring major changes to Afghanistan's economy.

This time, RAILTARGET's editorial team went to the heart of the Asian region to examine the railway infrastructure there. The Afghan Railway Authority (ARA) has unveiled an ambitious project to create a 5,040-kilometer-long national rail network, which will include four main corridors. Once completed, this network will connect Afghanistan to major seaports and all six neighboring countries, opening up access to countries in South and Central Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Key ports will be Chahbahar and Bandar Abbas in Iran, and Karachi and Gwadar in Pakistan.

Objectives and Importance of the Project

RAILTARGET's editors were obviously interested in the project's objective. It is mainly to facilitate the extraction and export of minerals to regional and international markets. In addition, the project is intended to contribute to sustainable economic development, improve security, create jobs, and provide access to global markets. Currently, Afghanistan has 227 km of operational railway lines located on the country's northern border. These lines include connections from Hairatan to Mazar-e Sharif, from Akina to Andkhoy, from the Turkmen border to Torgundi with a planned continuation to Herat, and from the Iranian city of Khaf to Herat.

Future Plans and Development

In the period from 21 March 2022 to 21 March 2023, 5.2 million tonnes of freight were transported on Afghan lines, a 20% increase from the previous year. Although passenger rail services do not yet exist in the country, they are envisaged in the coming years. Preliminary feasibility studies have already been carried out for the 3,333 km of planned lines.

And what is the plan? Among the immediate projects planned are the construction of a line from Spin Boldak to Kandahar, from Torkham to Jalalabad, and on to Kabul, and a line linking Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat. The importance of the development of rail transport is also confirmed by the signing of the trilateral agreement on the construction of the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan line under the Afghan Trans project in July 2023 and the agreement on the creation of a new economic rail corridor between Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan in September 2022.

Training and International Cooperation

It is also interesting to note that Afghanistan is actively investing in training specialists for its railways. For example, short-term courses for Afghan railway specialists are underway in Turkmenistan. In September 2022, the first commercial freight train from China arrived in Afghanistan, passing through Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the border station of Hairatan. The inauguration of commercial freight service between Iran and Afghanistan (Khaf-Herat) occurred in July 2023.

Benefits for the Afghan Economy

The construction of this extensive rail network has the potential to bring major changes to the Afghan economy. In addition to facilitating the extraction and export of minerals, the project also promises to improve security, create jobs, and ensure long-term economic development. Access to regional and global markets could mark a new beginning for Afghanistan and strengthen its position in international trade.

Through this ambitious railway project, Afghanistan is seeking to connect with the outside world and open new avenues for economic development. With the support of international partners and investment in infrastructure, the country has the chance to improve its economic situation and strengthen its place in the global market. This project is not just about infrastructure, but also about the hope for a better future for the whole of Afghanistan.

Source: Cargovák