AFGHANISTAN: A trial freight train delivered more than 400 tonnes of cement from Iran to Rosnak in Herat province on December 2, ahead of the ceremonial inauguration of the newly completed railway which is scheduled for this month.
A passenger train also carried Iranian railway officials to and from a meeting with their Afghan counterparts.
After many decades of abortive proposals, construction of the railway from Iran towards the city of Herat officially began in July 2006. The route is being built in four stages, starting from the existing Iranian network at Khaf.
Completion has taken significantly longer than had been envisaged, with the latest section to be completed being the 62 km stage 3 which terminates at Rosnak on the road between Herat and the Iranian border.
The fourth stage is to be be built in two phases, with the first extending the line to Robat Paryan and the second to Herat airport.
The Afghanistan Railway Authority said the line forms one of its most important regional connectivity projects, as it will provide the land-locked country with a link to Iranian ports and to the rail networks of Iran, Turkey and Europe.
Freight traffic is predicted to be around two million tonnes a year, with imports to include oil, construction materials and food and exports to include grain, dried fruit, plants and medical items.
AfRA said the operation of a passenger service is also being considered. Studies when work on the line began estimated that passenger traffic could reach 321 000 passengers/year, and freight traffic 6·8 million tonnes/year.
The new line is the first 1 435 mm gauge route in Afghanistan, matching the standard gauge networks in Iran and Turkey. The 75 km Uzbekistan – Mazar-i-Sharif line and the two short cross-border lines from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan are 1 520 mm gauge.