HAIRATAN: The first ever railroad infrastructure in Afghanistan from Hairatan Port to Mazar-e-Sharif Airport is the substantial scheme that links Afghanistan to international markets and would change fate of this war-torn country if the project extended to other parts of the country.
The Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif railway is a great economical opportunity at the history of Afghanistan in the past decades and it can be count as a good transport corridor, which connect Central Asia to South Asia and the region to the Caucasus and the Middle East.
Deputy Governor of Mazar-e-Sharif, Mohammad Zahir Wahdat during an exclusive interview with Afghanistan Times said that Afghanistan is embarking toward self-reliance, so completion of two-line railway project is the most important infrastructure and vital one, which would help Afghans in the transition phase to achieve economical objective.
He said that a railway from Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif will improve links between Afghanistan and neighboring countries as well as we can access nearby seaports while developing integrated transport network with different cargos in the region.
Afghanistan has rich natural resources. Extraction and transport of minerals or other raw materials would be impossible without railway, so this railway will be an economic and fair option to the Afghan government to access these natural resources and supply to the international market, he added.
He highlighted that even the rail line is efficient, safe and reliable transport network for carrying goods and some other materials inside Afghanistan.
Mr. Wahdat while expressing his pleasure over funding of this important project by Asian Development Bank (ADB) requested the ADB to extent this project to the other part of Afghanistan for long lasting development of the war-torn country.
Project Manager of Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif Railway, Abdullah Wahdat said that with the completion of railway project connecting the ring road and airport, an integrated transport network has been developed in north of the country.
He stated that 1,066 kilometer Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway line is one of the biggest infrastructure project of Ministry of Public Work (MoPW) in north of Afghanistan, which was financially supported by ADB at a total cost of $165 million.
The Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway has started operation in December 2011. Daily 400-500 bogies containing goods are shifting from Uzbakistan to Hairatan Port and then to Mazar-e-Sharif.
The operation and maintenance of this railway was granted to an Uzbek company for three years, but in 2014 Afghan government will handle full operation.
The existing Uzbek railway network ends at the bordering town of Hairatan, which is a gateway to Afghanistan. It has reached its full capacity to over 10000 tons of cargo per month.
All the stations are equipped and facilitated with modern and standard equipments. The railway system has been computerized. The tracks change via computerized system.
To store sufficient stocks, warehouse has been constructed at Hairatan Port and the railway is connected to each warehouse, where the goods loading and evacuating directly from the stores and the efforts are underway to construct warehouses in Mazar-e-Sharif as well.
Mostly flour, oil and construction materials are imports from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to Hairatan and Mazar-e-Sharif.
Negotiation is going on with Uzbekistan to start exportation via this line from Afghanistan in near future.
Security of the Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway depends on Public Property Protection forces of Ministry of Interior, where since construction phase no any issues registered in the aspect. Over 500 personnel of Public Protection Forces are deployed from Hairatan to Mazar-e-sharif at the railway side to ensure security in the area.
The existing Uzbek railway at Hairatan needs to be extended to other parts of Afghanistan, in order to prevent bottleneck transportation in the country.
Eng. Wahdat hinting to the issue said in order to enhance this facility and lead Afghan product and minerals to international market in better manner, at later stage, the railway network will be extended to Aqina and Herat in the west of the country in near future.
He highlighted that this railway scheme will be expanded to Herat, Aqina and Andkhoe commercial borders, to link Afghanistan with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Primary survey over rail lines from Hairatan to Herat was completed while technical and design survey over this project will be started with the financial support of ADB at total cost of $2.5 million in near future. ADB also showed interest to fund the construction of Hairatan-Herat railway.
Mostly traders prefer to use railway for carrying their goods, because it is an efficient and safe transportation source, but they asked the government to foster such infrastructure projects in all bordering points and at different metropolitans to lead the country toward economic development.
It is pertained to mention that three decades of war destroyed all infrastructures in Afghanistan, but after collapse of Taliban regime a new page opened at the history of this country. Currently Afghanistan has over 3,600 kilometers ring road, which connects all 34 provinces. The railway would provide good opportunity to Afghan to transport their products to international markets.