Kabul, Afghanistan – The Afghan officials signed management of the Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway with a Kazakhstani company named Mansour Fatih, after months of discussion on the topic.
The company will manage technical issues for the railway, getting paid over $4.1 million annually, according to sources.
According to Bakht Rahman Sharafat, the acting head of Afghanistan Railway Authority, the current leadership will pay only about 25% of what the previous Uzbekistan company would receive for the service.
“We were paying $15 million to the Sogdiana Trans, and the Sogdiana Trans company from Uzbekistan was only providing us service for 22 kilometers, only in Hairatan port,” he said as TOLOnews qutoed.
“This new company (Mansour Faith) will provide service for 106 kilometers,” he added.
Meanwhile, the deputy head of the Fatih Company, Bisn Bai Makhanov, said that they would increase the number of employees based on capacity.
“We have earned this contract through bidding,” he said.
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Asian Development Bank helped Afghanistan build a 75-kilometer single-line railway between the town of Hairatan and Mazar-e-Sharif, the second largest city in the country.
Hairatan serves as the gateway for almost half of Afghanistan’s total imports. The project will also upgrade the train stations and provide institutional support to develop a railway sector plan.
Railway Lines in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has three railway lines in the north of the country: The first is between Mazar-i-Sharif and the border town of Hairatan in Balkh province, which then connects with Uzbek Railways of Uzbekistan.
The second links Torghundi in Herat province with Turkmen Railways of Turkmenistan. The third is between Turkmenistan and Aqina in Faryab province of Afghanistan, which extends south to the city of Andkhoy.
The country currently lacks a passenger rail service, but a new rail link from Herat to Khaf in Iran for both cargo and passengers was recently completed.
Passenger service is also proposed in Hairatan – Mazar-i-Sharif section and Mazar-i-Sharif – Aqina section.
Afghanistan’s rail network is still in the developing stage. The current rail lines are to be extended in the near future, the plans include lines for cargo traffic as well as passenger transportation.
Afghanistan’s neighbors have been improving their own railway networks during the early 21st century. The main plan is to use Afghanistan to connect by rail the four subcontinents of Asia.