Afghanistan, Iran open first rail network

Published December 11, 2020
A TRAIN moves into western Afghanistan from eastern Iran during the inauguration of the service between the two countries on Thursday.—AFP
A TRAIN moves into western Afghanistan from eastern Iran during the inauguration of the service between the two countries on Thursday.—AFP

HERAT: An Iranian goods train carrying tonnes of agricultural products chugged into a western Afghan province on Thursday as the two countries marked the opening of their first shared railway network.

The train route so far links the Iranian city of Khaf with the Afghan town of Rozanak about 150 kilometres away, but is scheduled to be expanded to reach Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city.

The $75 million project began in 2007, with Iran funding construction on both sides of the border as part of its development assistance to Afghanistan.

Crowds of Afghans gathered at Rozanak station for the arrival of the first blue-painted train.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, addressing the inauguration ceremony via video link, welcomed the move as an “important step for economic revival and development in both the countries”.

He called the railroad “a precious gift from Iran” that would help restore the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that spread prosperity across Asia. The inauguration saw cargo trains depart from opposite ends of the line.

The project was a gateway to Europe for Afghanistan, said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “I see the prosperity of Iran and Afghanistan in this railway,” he said, also speaking via video link from Tehran.

“The development, security and stability of Afghanistan (contributes to) development, security and stability in Iran and the entire region.”

He said Iran had succeeded in building the line despite sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after the US withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.

Residents of Rozanak welcomed the new link. “It is going to change our villages, towns and cities into business hubs,” said Arbab Ghulam Reza, a farmer.

“It was also very difficult for our young boys to go to Iran for work. Now they can simply buy a train ticket and go.” Once completed, the 225km network would help transport six million tonnes of goods and a million passengers annually, officials said.

The Khaf-Herat network would later be connected to Central Asian and Chinese rail networks, officials said.

Decades of war and neglect have destroyed Afghanistan’s infrastructure, making its roads and bridges nearly impassable.

But despite the worsening security situation, efforts to rebuild roads and railway networks have always been a top priority of the Afghan government and the donor community.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2020

Opinion

Editorial

1971 in retrospect
Updated 28 Nov, 2022

1971 in retrospect

The point of no return came when the military launched Operation Searchlight in March 1971.
Gender-based violence
28 Nov, 2022

Gender-based violence

IT is a war without boundaries and seemingly without end. A UN report on femicide released on Nov 25, the...
Battle against dacoits
28 Nov, 2022

Battle against dacoits

THE Punjab police is clearly fighting a formidable, and so far losing, battle against the criminal gangs based in ...
Policy rate hike
Updated 27 Nov, 2022

Policy rate hike

The decision to hike the policy rate by 100bps is a step in the right direction, even if intended to appease the IMF.
Vawda’s reprieve
27 Nov, 2022

Vawda’s reprieve

FAISAL Vawda should be relieved. After years of running from a reckoning for submitting a false declaration in his...
Gujarat’s ghosts
27 Nov, 2022

Gujarat’s ghosts

TWO decades have passed since the bloody Gujarat riots, one of the worst spasms of anti-Muslim violence witnessed in...