Afghanistan’s railway line linking Mazar-e-Sharif with Hairatan on the Uzbekistan border is bringing much needed goods, trade opportunities, and hope, to one of Asia's most troubled countries.
In January 2012, Afghanistan's first railway opened, linking Mazar-e-Sharif with Hairatan on the Uzbekistan border.
Over the 75km track, freight trains carry commodities from Central Asian markets and the People's Republic of China to Afghanistan. The railway has helped maximize the opportunities associated with access to international markets.
In under 5 years of operation, over 11.7 million tonnes of goods have been transported, generating revenues of more than $115.5 million. The local economy has also benefitted from the railway, creating opportunities for commerce and trade.
"We are very happy with the railway line. Now, we can easily import flour, oil, rice, sugar, and other goods from Uzbekistan to Mazar-e-Sharif."
The railway was built with a US$165 million grant from ADB, while the Afghanistan Infrastructure Trust Fund, or AITF, supported operation and maintenance for the first three years.
SOT: Ahmad Shahid Feeroz
"The railway line is very important for Mazar-e-Sharif and other provinces of Afghanistan. It is a quick and effective route to import gasoline or other goods into the country."
After five years in service, the railway continues to be a major contributor to the economy of northern Afghanistan.
A new 3-year operation and maintenance contract was awarded to Uzbekistan's railway company Sogdiana Trans. The contract also includes training for 150 staff from the Afghan Railway Authority.
Looking forward, the plan is to extend the line from Mazar-e-Sharif west to the Turkmenistan border, as well as east to the Tajikistan border.
SOT: Atta Mohammad Noor
Governor, Balkh Province
"Hopefully, the railway will be extended, giving us employment opportunities, economic growth, and accelerating humanitarian development assistance."
Eventually, landlocked Afghanistan will be connected to neighboring countries through a seamless transport system, promoting economic growth and regional cooperation.