Afghanistan working on plans to expand ties through railway network

Afghanistan Railway Authority (ARA), said Friday they are working to expand economic ties with neighboring countries through railway projects.

The director general of the Afghan Railways, Bakht-u-Rehman Sharafat, says they are working on plans to develop the railway system in Afghanistan and to use this form of transport for exports.

He said that Russia and Kazakhstan have also shown interest in the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan railway project, and some Central Asian countries have also asked to join the Afghanistan-Iran railway project.

“We intend to designate the port of Aqina for the import of petroleum products and Andkhoy port for dry products; we have also started working on all the ports to solve problems,” said Sharafat.

Private sector members say the railway projects play a key role in the country’s mining sector and the export of dried and fresh fruits. They have inturn called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to continue its efforts to expand this sector.

“Railway is one of the most important means of transportation in the country and in this way we are able to deliver our exports to different markets of the world in a timely manner,” said Abdul Jabar Safi, the head of the Industrialists Association.

Economists say that if Afghanistan’s railways are connected to neighboring countries, the country will soon be able to enter world markets by exporting saffron, minerals, carpets and other goods.

This comes after Uzbekistan started building a $5 billion railway across Afghanistan to link up with Pakistan’s seaports, Pakistani website News International reported last month.

The project is being driven by Uzbekistan, and was launched after a meeting in Uzbek capital Tashkent in February, in which officials agreed on a roadmap for the 600km line connecting the Uzbek and Pakistan networks via Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul.

“This trans-Afghan project is the most economical and shortest route connecting Central Asia with the Pakistani ports of Karachi, Gwadar and Qasim,” said Pakistani minister of state and chair of the country’s Board of Investment (BOI), Muhammad Azfar Ahsan after the meeting.

“The Termez-Kabul-Peshawar project could be a game changer for the region’s future,” he said.