EghtesadOnline: The 130-kilometer-long Khaf-Herat railroad connecting Iran and Afghanistan has high potential for transit to the eastern neighboring country, according to the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways.
“The annual transit to Afghanistan from the Commonwealth of Independent States and Turkey amounting to 1.2 million tons and 500,000 tons respectively can be redirected to Khaf-Herat railroad,” Saeed Rasouli was also quoted as saying by the news portal of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development.
The official noted that the Iranian government hopes the railroad will further strengthen social, economic and cultural ties between the two nations.
“We are counting on Khaf-herat railroad to play a significant role in boosting interactions between Iran and Afghanistan,” he said.
Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami said the rail project will be inaugurated within one month.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani are expected to attend the inauguration ceremony.
Khaf-Herat railroad will be 130 km long, of which 70 km are inside Iran and 60 km are in Afghanistan. With the completion of this project, Afghanistan can, for the first time, take advantage of a railroad that provides access to Turkey and Europe through Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf.
The project, which started in April 2007 with Iran’s assistance worth $75 million, was due to finish in 2009 but was delayed.
The Khaf-Herat railroad is the largest joint infrastructural project between Iran and Afghanistan.
During a visit to the Afghan western province of Herat earlier this month, Iran's Deputy Minister of Transport and Urban Development Abbas Khatibi said 93% of the work on the Iranian side of the railroad project have been completed.
Afghan railroad officials in Herat have said the Afghan government will start work on the fourth phase of the Khaf-Herat railroad project within the next 10 days, TOLOnews reported on Oct. 6.
The fourth phase of the project is to lay the track from Ghoryan district of Herat toward the Herat airport.
Referring to the economic significance of the project, officials of Herat Chamber of Commerce and Industries have said the implementation of the project will help expand export and import relations between Iran and Afghanistan.
“In the fourth phase, 40% of the work will be focused on the geotechnical portion and surveying of the project,” said Sayed Aqa Azizi, the head of Herat Railway Directorate.
The project is being completed by a Kazakh company hired for the project.
“Khaf railroad project will help connect Herat to the entire world and develop our export ability,” said Abdul Latif Qanawizyan, the deputy head of Herat Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
Iranian officials believe the project will also help Afghanistan get easy access to the Iranian ports of Chabahar and Bandar Abbas.
The development takes place, as security threats still remain high against the project in Ghoryan district.
“When there is development and infrastructure, security also increases, but we are fully ready to deal with these threats,” said Najibullah Safai, the commander of Khaf-Herat Security Department.
“The Iranian Cabinet recently approved the creation of a new official border checkpoint named Shamtigh on the border with Afghanistan in its recent meeting,” says Ali Rasoulian, an official with Khorasan Razavi Provincial Governor’s Office, IRNA reported.
“The new border crossing located in Khorasan Razavi will be exclusively committed to rail transport of passengers and freight to the neighboring country. Shamtigh Border Crossing will become operational next month when the two neighboring countries connect through the Khaf-Herat railroad.”