Economy, Domestic Economy

Tehran-Kabul Rail Project: A Regional Game Changer

Tehran-Kabul Rail Project: A Regional Game ChangerTehran-Kabul Rail Project: A Regional Game Changer

Work has started on the Afghan side of a rail link between Khwaf in northeast Iran and Herat in Afghanistan, one of many rail projects planned for Afghanistan, and one of the few to have broken ground. This was stated in a report by Global Construction Review published by the Chartered Institute of Building, a UK-based body that represents construction management professionals who work within the built environment. Below is the full text:

The project was declared open earlier this month at a ceremony attended by top officials from both countries, including Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi, Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Works Mahmoud Baligh and Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi.

“This project enhances the bilateral relations of Iran and Afghanistan, and it links Afghanistan with Europe, China and Central Asia via the transit corridors of Iran,” Akhoundi said.

The Iranians have already completed 90% of the link on their side of the border.

One of the main concerns over the railroad would be maintaining its security: The Taliban are present in the south of the province, although the proposed route of the railroad is under government control.  

Baligh reassured those attending the ceremony that the government would provide security for workers building the railroad.

Hakimi said the track would increase the value of trade between the two countries from $2 million a year to $6 million.

However, the construction of a secure, modern railroad has wider significance for Afghanistan and its neighbors.  

At present, Afghanistan has almost no rail network. The development of one is regarded as essential for the country’s economic development. In 2007, the US Geological Survey estimated Afghanistan’s mineral wealth at $1 trillion, including so much lithium that an internal Pentagon memo called it the “Saudi Arabia” of that metal.

Other valuations have put the total figure at three times this.

In 2011, seven Indian companies acquired rights to mine central Afghanistan’s Hajigak region, thought to contain Asia’s largest deposit of iron ore. The Indian government had pledged to spend $2 billion in developing supporting infrastructure.

Earlier this year, the governments of Afghanistan, India and Iran signed the Chabahar Port agreement, which would make the Iranian port of Chabahar Afghanistan’s link with world markets. Work on expanding the port began last year, under the aegis of a joint venture between India’s Kandla Port Trust and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust.