Funded by Iran as part of its development assistance to Afghanistan, the new railway track connects Iran’s Khaf with Afghanistan’s Ghorian. The railroad can transport one million passengers and six million tons of goods a year.
The leaders of Iran and Afghanistan have inaugurated the first railway link between the two countries, expressing hope it would enhance trade links across the region.
The 140-kilometre line running from eastern Iran into western Afghanistan will eventually be expanded by 85 kilometres to reach the Afghan city of Herat, providing a crucial transport link for the landlocked country, where decades of war have hindered infrastructure development.
The $75 million project began in 2007, with Iran funding construction on both sides of the border as part of its development assistance to Afghanistan.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, speaking in a video conference, called it “one of the historic days” in relations between the two countries. He said Iran had succeeded in building the line despite sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after the US withdrew from Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.
Rouhani said the rail route, which is Iran’s sixth border railroad with neighbouring countries, will “strengthen the bond” between Iran and Afghanistan.
Ahead of the ceremony, a trial freight train delivered 400 tons of cement from Iran to Afghanistan last week. The inauguration saw cargo trains depart from opposite ends of the line.
According to Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami, the railroad can transport one million passengers and six million tons of goods a year.
Herat-Khaf railway is ready for operation.— Ministry of Industry & Commerce AFG (@MoICAfghanistan) December 10, 2020
With d opening of Herat-Khaf railway, #AFG can export its products to regional countries & d world.
Lately, the 1st test cargo arrived in Herat from Iran via d mentioned railway.
Exports will increase & connects AFG 2 Europe & d world. pic.twitter.com/vNH576bM1T
Regional transport hub
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called the railroad a “precious gift from Iran" that would help restore the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that spread prosperity across Asia.
Iran hopes to transform itself into a regional transport hub, allowing Afghanistan and other landlocked Asian countries to transport goods to its ports on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Iran already has rail links with Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Turkey.
The project, which came to fruition under a tripartite agreement between Iran, Afghanistan, and India is expected to play a significant role in linking landlocked Afghanistan with Russia, Europe, and Turkey.
The Khaf-Herat railway’s significance is not only for Iran & Afghanistan, but for the greater region.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) December 9, 2020
As a gateway that'll boost trade and people-to-people exchanges, it will also contribute to regional stability & development.
Turning our frontiers into bridges is a priority.
I agree with my brother @JZarif and believe it is a key piece of our regional connectivity vision for peace, stability and shared prosperity. We thank Iran and appreciate support from Italy. https://t.co/8ZsSOwuqUA— Mohammed Haneef Atmar محمد حنیف اتمر (@MHaneefAtmar) December 10, 2020
Tehran and Kabul have been involved in talks with three countries (China, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan) in the east-west corridor to develop a long railroad from China to Europe, that passes through Iran and Afghanistan.
Taking to Twitter, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, highlighted the importance of this railroad, calling it a “gateway that will boost trade and people-to-people exchanges and also contribute to regional stability and development.”