ISLAMABAD: Pakis­tan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan will sign a joint protocol on Tuesday (today) to connect the Uzbek rail network with Pakistan Railways.

The route for this connection will pass through Termiz in Uzbekistan, Mazar-i-Sharif and Logar in Afghanistan, and culminate in Pakistan via the Kharlachi border crossing in Kurram.

This route was finalised in a meeting of a trilateral working group of the three countries on the Uzbekis­tan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (UAP) railways project, in Islamabad on Monday. This was the second meeting of the working group since January this year.

The Ministry of Rail­ways, in an announcement following the meeting, stated that the UAP railway project would not only facilitate regional, transit, and bilateral trade among­­st participating countries, but would also provide better people-to-people connections in the entire region.

The line will support both passenger and freight services and would contribute to regional trade and economic growth, the statement said.

Pakistan Railways Chairman Syed Mazhar Ali Shah led the Pakistan delegation, while the Afghan delegation was led by Alhaj Bakhtulrehman Sharaft, director general of Afghanistan Railways Authority, and Davron Dekhkanov, head of the Transport Department of the Ministry of Investment, Industry and Trade represented the Uzbek side.

The three countries also agreed on a roadmap for conducting technical studies, financing sources, and other key aspects for the early implementation of the project. The countries appreciated the professional work of the experts of the three railway networks in achieving a consensus on the final route and its implementation modalities.

Uzbekistan estimates that the 760km railroad is expected to reduce delivery times of cargo between Uzbekistan and Pakistan by about five days. At the same time, the cost of goods transport would also be reduced by at least 40 per cent. It has been estimated that the project would be completed by the end of 2027 and trains could be able to carry goods up to 15 million tons yearly by 2030.

The three countries have already signed a roadmap strategic plan to construct a new 573km Trans-Afghan railway that will connect Central Asia with ports on the Arabian Sea. The agreement provides for conducting a joint expedition to survey the route and its terrain as well as a preliminary feasibility study for the project.

Pakistan hopes that the completion of the route would bring Central Asia closer to Pakistan’s 230m strong population and open up trade opportunities with countries in the Arabian Sea.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2023

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