AFGHANISTAN: ‘Those who thought that building a network of railways in Afghanistan was impossible need to reconsider their perspective’, said President Ashraf Ghani during the inauguration of the line from Aqina on the Turkmen border to the northern town of Andkhoy on January 14.
The Aqina – Andkhoy line is an extension of the 1 520 mm gauge route from Atamyrat in Turkmenistan to the Ymamnazar border crossing point (85 km) and Afghanistan’s customs facilities at Aqina (3 km) which opened on November 28 2016.
A memorandum of understanding for the extension was signed on February 21 2019, and a government-to-government contract followed on September 4 2019. Because Afghanistan lacks indigenous capabilities, Turkmenistan took responsibility for funding, surveying, design and construction.
The project covered the building of 24 km of main line, 6 km of sidings at Andkhoy, and various small bridges, level crossings and a parallel road. Construction was officially launched on July 26 2019, when expanded rail facilities at Aqina were inaugurated.
Ghani and Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov participated in the opening ceremony via video links.
The celebrations included the departure of the first train to Andkhoy, which was formed of 10 tank cars carrying fuel, seven wagons carrying mineral fertiliser and three wagons loaded with agricultural products.
Ghani said the simultaneous inauguration of the railway and electric power and fibre optic links between the two countries was a ‘significant step towards further deepening relations and translating an important part of our regional connectivity vision into reality.’
He explained that it was ‘a matter of immense pride that Afghanistan is renewing its long-standing relations with Central Asian countries after more than 100 years of isolation. The bonds of friendship forged between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan are valuable for the two governments and nations.
‘Afghanistan’s location as a roundabout that links Central Asia with south, east and west Asia as well as implementation of significant economic and infrastructural projects, including recently the Khaf – Herat railway, proves that our vision of connectivity is not an improbable dream but an undeniable reality’, Ghani added.
Berdimuhamedov emphasised that ‘such projects will provide strong support to the Afghan economy and will also affect the country’s industry’.
He reported that Turkmenistan and Afghanistan were also implementing the construction of a 173 km line from Towraghondi to Herat. New logistics routes would connect with the two cross-border railways between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, making them important links in a transport corridor from the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean, he explained.