Afghanistan Rail Network

Afghanistan Rail Network

The Afghanistan Rail Network project aims to construct a trans-Asian rail network throughout the country. The Afghanistan National Railway Plan (ANRP) seeks to establish Afghanistan as a regional transportation hub and meet the transportation needs of the agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and other economic sectors. It provides corridor access to regional networks, including with Iran, Russia, and China. The Afghanistan Railway Authority (ARA), which is the independent agency responsible for legal and regulatory policies governing rail operations and development, is responsible for the ANRP. Conservative estimates stipulate that the Afghanistan Rail Network will generate more than 50,000 new direct jobs and over 200,000 indirect jobs. The rail network will act as a crucial connective element of future Multimodal Transport and Logistics Facilities. With the ability to carry 20 to 30 million tons of cargo annually through Afghanistan, the rail network will supply the Government with increased customs duties and transit fees. The first train in Afghanistan ran on the completed Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif rail line with in 2011.

Current Status

The first train carrying freight containers from Nantong in eastern China and—after passing through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan—reached the northern Afghan border town and port of Hairatan on September 7, 2016 (7300 kilometers in fourteen days). On the same day, the Afghan and Iranian Governments commenced with track laying for the remaining 62 km section (between the Afghan border town of Shamtigh and Rozanak) of the 225 km Khaf (Iran) to Herat rail line the third section of which is expected to be completed yet this year. In 2013, the Presidents of the Governments of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan signed a MOU to develop a rail corridor between the three countries, which is now part of related planning for the Lapis-Lazuli Transit, Trade, & Transport Route Agreement and the Five Nations Railway Corridor.

The ANRP classifies part of the Northern line as “high priority” that expands the existing 75 km line running between Haraitan and Mazar-e-Sharif, connecting the Central Asian Republic (CAR) countries and Iran via Afghanistan. This follows on from the ADB Railway Development Study, which led to the construction of the line between Haraitan and Mazar-i-Sharif. Phase II of that study considers the Herat-Mazar-Sherkhan Bandar and Aqina branches. Recent assessments have concluded that while a “dual gauge” (Standard and Russian) is needed for trains traveling north from Afghanistan, Standard is deemed the preferred rail gauge system for the national rail network. The Afghanistan Rail Network serves as a pivotal part of the Afghan Government’s Infrastructure and Connectivity Development National Priority Program. The following railway segments connecting Afghanistan with the neighboring countries are under different phases of pre-feasibility or feasibility studies: Aqina – Andkhoy – Shiberghan; Torghundi-Herat; Chaman-Spinboldak-Kandahar; Jalalabad – Torkham; Lashkargah-Bahram Chah; Chabahar – Zaranj – Farah. The project has the potential to serve as an important part of the Afghan Government's National Infrastructure Plan.

Budget & Funding Status Hairatan-Mazar-i-Sharif (USD $165 million), Khaf-Herat (USD $141.8 million), Five Nations Railway Corridor (est. USD $2 billion), Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan Rail Corridor (est. USD $810 million)
Institutional Partners Afghanistan, China, Iran, Italy, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United States, Uzbekistan, ADB, and the EU

Recommended Actions by RECCA-VII and Beyond:

  • Stemming from the Afghanistan National Railway Plan, prioritize the construction of the Afghanistan Rail Network in the Northern Zone (Sherkhan Bandar-Kunduz-Mazar-Shibergan-Herat), with the Southern Zone (Kandahar-Spin Boldak) expected to operate by 2020 and the Eastern and Western Zones in 2025 and Central and Northeastern Zones by 2030.
  • Expand the existing 75 km line running between Haraitan and Mazar-e-Sharif, as well as the 225km line running between Khaf and Herat, with each as a “high priority,” connecting the Central Asian Republic (CAR) countries and Iran via Afghanistan.