Reconstruction of Afghanistan-Uzbekistan railway starts, ambition is to extend route to Pakistan

By Tawney Kruger in Tashkent February 26, 2024

Engineers have commenced the $6.3mn and three-month reconstruction of the 75-kilometre (47-mile) cross-border railway line that links Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, the International Rail Journal reported on February 24, citing Afghanistan’s state news agency Bakhtar.

The transit route has lain dormant for years. Initially constructed over a decade ago, the line suffered damage during internal conflicts in Afghanistan, rendering it inactive.

Last year, the governments of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan (UAP) signed a joint protocol outlining their intention to build a 760-km UAP Railway connecting the three countries and thus linking Central Asia and South Asia with Trans-Afghan infrastructure. Tashkent, Kabul and Islamabad aspire to launch the rail corridor by 2027. An annual capacity of 15mn tonnes of freight is envisaged.

Groundwork for the Trans-Afghan UAP railway is under way, following the signing of a memorandum by the parties in Tashkent on February 20. The project has moved to feasibility study preparations and will engage key stakeholders across the region.

The study, led by the Uzbek logistics joint venture ADL-Ulanish backed by Abu Dhabi’s AD Ports Group, which will be conducted at the JV’s own expense, will explore the viability of the planned railway. The hope is that in bridging Central and South Asia, the railway could potentially transform inter-region trade dynamics and economic cooperation. The conclusions of the feasibility analysis are to be delivered by July.

Doubly-landlocked Uzbekistan is not the only Central Asian country taking a big interest in realising the Trans-Afghan UAP ambition. The project has drawn interest from Kazakhstan. It expressed a willingness in 2022 to participate in the construction of the railway, which would follow a Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar route.

Both Uzbekistan and Pakistan, meanwhile, announced plans a year ago to fast-track the development of the transnational railway.

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