CEREMONIES were held at Towraghondi in Afghanistan and Serhetabat near Gushgy in Turkmenistan on July 11, marking the start of work to rehabilitate 2 km of cross-border railway.

The cost of the reconstruction is put at US$550 000, which Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov told Afghan President Hamid Karzai his country will provide 'with a view to further developing and strengthening the neighbourly relations between Turkmenistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, as well as providing assistance to the people of Afghanistan in reconstruction of the national economy.'

The short 1 520 mm gauge line into Afghanistan was built by the USSR in the early 1980s, falling out of use with the Soviet withdrawal from the country. Afghanistan’s only other rail link is a branch of less than 10 km across the Friendship Bridge from Termiz in Uzbekistan to a large freight terminal at Hayratan, which currently receives three or four daily trains carrying food, fuel and building materials. Long-standing proposals to extend the route to Mazar-e Sharif, Pol-e Komri, Kabul and ultimately through to Pakistan are once again being discussed.