25/July/2016 Prepared by: Ahmad Basim Hamza
In the 1920s, King Amanullah bought three small steam
locomotives from Henschel of Kassel in Germany and these
were put to work on a 7 kilometres (4.3 mile) long 2 ft 6 in (762
mm) this roadside tramway linking Kabul and Darulaman. The
tramway closed (date unknown) but the locomotives still exist
at Kabul museum in Darulaman. December 1922 issue of the
The Locomotive magazine mentions "Travellers from
Afghanistan state a railway is being laid down for a distance of
some six miles from Kabul to the site of the new city of
Darulaman also that some of the rolling stock for it is being
manufactured in the Kabul workshops". The August 1928 issue
of The Locomotive magazine mentions "the only railway at
present in Afghanistan is five miles long, between Kabul and
Over the last century and a half, plenty of proposals have been made
about building railways in Afghanistan. In 1885, the New York Times
wrote about plans for connecting the Russian Trans-Caspian Railway,
then under construction, with British India via Sarakhs, Herat, and
Kandahar. When completed, the project would allow British officers to
travel from London to India, mostly by rail, in 11 to 12 days (crossing
the English Channel, the Black Sea, and the Caspian Sea by boat).
About 1928, proposals were put forward for a railway to link
Jalalabad with Kabul, eventually connecting to the (then) Indian
system at Peshawar. Lines to join Kabul with Kandahar and Herat
would follow later. Owing to political upheavals these plans were not
In the 1950s a hydroelectric power station was built at Sarobi, east
of Kabul. Three Henschel four-wheel 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in)
narrow gauge diesel hydraulic locos built in 1951 (works numbers
24892, 24993, 24994) were supplied to the power station.
In 1979 mining and construction locomotive builder Bedia
Maschine and fabrik of Bonn supplied five D35/6 two axle diesel-
hydraulic 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in) narrow gauge locomotives, works
numbers 150-154, to an unknown customer in Afghanistan.
The fate of these locomotives is unknown.
Track Gauge in Afghanistan
Rail tracks from the Afghanistan–Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge to the
city of Mazar-i-Sharif, seen from a U.S. military helicopter.
The choice of future track gauges in Afghanistan presents several
difficulties. Afghanistan is surrounded by three different kinds of
gauge, and yet is almost complete without railways.
Until the 21st century, there were fewer than 25 km of railway inside
the country, all of which is built to 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) Russian
gauge. For strategic reasons, past Afghan governments preferred to
discourage the construction of railways which could aid foreign
interference in Afghanistan by Britain or Russia.
Iran to the west uses standard gauge, 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in),
as does China to the east; to the south, Pakistan uses 1,676
mm (5 ft 6 in) Indian gauge, while to the north, the central Asian
republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan use 1,520
mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) gauge.
In 2010, the gauge question was resolved so that the internal
network would be initially standard gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2
There are currently no passenger services or stations in
Afghanistan. If any of the various cross-border links are
completed and opened to passenger service, new stations
would have to be built.
But here they have 3 main stations (Hairatan and Naibabad
in northern province of Mazar e sharif and Torghondi in
Herat province) that are freight stations.
In the early 1980s, the Soviet Union built an approximately 15
kilometers rail line from Termez in Uzbekistan to Kheyrabad in
Afghanistan, crossing the Amu Darya river on the Afghanistan–
Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge. In January 2010, construction
began on a 75-kilometer (47 mi) extension line between
Afghanistan and Uzbekistan; this line is also 1520 mm (4 ft 11
27⁄32 in) gauge as the first one built by the Soviets. By December
2010, it began carrying construction materials for other
reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.
The line, which starts from Hairatan to Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi
International Airport in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif,
was completed and is operated by Uzbekistan's national railway
Uzbekiston Temir Yullari for a three-year-term until Afghanistan's
own railways department takes over. The first freight services
began running around August 2011.
A 10-kilometer long line extends from Serhetabat in Turkmenistan to the
town of Towraghondi in Afghanistan. An upgrade of this Soviet-built line,
using Russian gauge, began in 2007. In April 2016, an agreement was
reached for a technical feasibility study for a proposal to extend this line
approx. 100 km to Heart, where it could connect to the standard-gauge
line to Iran that is being built. In accordance to earlier decisions, the line
is likely to be standard gauge, with break of gauge at Towraghondi.
Construction of another 330 km railway track from Balkh province in
Afghanistan to the Aqina dry port in Faryab province was launched in
June 2013. Estimated to cost 4 billion afs, the rail line will pass through
Sheberghan in Jowzjan province and connect with Turkmenistan's rail at
Aqina in the Andkhoy district of Faryab province.
Two broad gauge 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) Pakistan Railways lines
with steep gradient terminate on the border at Chaman and
Torkham. In July 2010, Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a
Memorandum of understanding for going ahead with the laying of
rail tracks between the two countries. Work on the proposed
project is set to start in the next four months and now its under
studies. The rail tracks would link Quetta in Pakistan with
Kandahar in Afghanistan and Peshawar in Pakistan with Jalalabad
On May 29, 2012, the section from Chaman in Pakistan to Spin
Boldak in Afghanistan (12 km) was approved.
In September 2010, China Metallurgical Group Corporation
(MCC) signed an agreement with the Afghan Minister of
Mines to investigate construction of a north-south railway
across Afghanistan, running from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul and
then to the eastern border town of Torkham. MCC was
recently awarded a copper mining concession at Mes Aynak
which would be linked to this railway. MCC is constructing a
921 km long 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) gauge railway line that will
link Kabul with Uzbekistan in the north and Pakistan in the
Afghanistan–Iran Rail Service
The nearest railhead in Iran is a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)
standard gauge freight line which terminates at Mashhad. This
line is currently being extended 202 kilometers east to Heart.
On April 17, 2007 Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar
Spanta said that the executive operations of the Khawaf-Herat
railway (freight only) project had begun in 2006. There is also a
plan for a railway from Chabahar port in Southern Iran to the
Hajigak region of Afghanistan. In September 2012, Herat in
Afghanistan to Khawaf in Iran railway, 70 km of which is inside
Afghanistan and 60 km is inside Iran, was 90% complete. In
May 2015, it was announced to operationalize it by April 2016.
India is finalizing a plan to construct a 900-km railway line that will connect
Port of Chabahar in Iran, being built with Indian help, to the mineral-rich
Hajigak region of Afghanistan.
In May 2016, during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to Iran,
agreement was signed to develop two berths at Chabahar port and to build
new Chabahar-Zahedan railway, as part of North–South Transport Corridor,
by Indian Railway's public sector unit Ircon International.
The establishment of the port of Chabahar's connection to the country’s
railway plan, is under study and consideration. With the completion of the
Kerman–Zahedan railway and its connection to the port of Chabahar, this
port will connect to the Trans-Iranian Railway.
Breaks of Gauge
The initial phase of railway construction from 2010 sees the creation of five
Kandahar 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) / 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)
Khyber Pass 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) / 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)
Towraghondi 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) / 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)
Mazar-i-Sharif 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) / 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)
Sherkhan Bandar 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) / 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)
Will continually provide more about Afghanistan Railway
Networks in next presentations.