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The Killid Group
Railway on holdWritten by Behnam Fardes
Saturday, 26 November 2011 10:55
Work on the railway from Khaf in Iran to Herat is three years behind schedule.
A scheme initiated by the Iranian state railway, track laying began in July 2006, and was to have been completed in two years.
There have been many attempts to bring a railway to Herat over the last century. The project to take the Khaf line to Herat, a distance of some 190 kms, is the only one to have progressed from paper to actual construction.
In May 2008, Hamid Behbahani, Iran's deputy minister of roads and transportation, said 60 percent of the railroad was completed in Iran and 40 percent in Afghanistan, according to a report published on the internet.
Tracking progress through satellite images in Google Maps the same site reported that even by November 2009 there was no sign of "earthworks" for the single-track line. Since Google's image could be quite old, the report relied also on the evidence the same month of "a correspondent in Herat (who) said the line was not finished yet".
Who is to blame?
Tooryalai Zareefi, assistant chief of the provincial council of Herat, blamed the delay on "carelessness" in an interview with Killid. "Carelessness of the concerned officials has caused the stoppage of the line which is one of the most valuable projects." Work on the fourth section of the line - in Afghanistan - has not been started. Construction was split in four parts, two in each country.
Mohammad Qasem Amozgar, head of the public works department of Herat province, deems the delay was in the acquisition of land from people. According to him, there was no budget for the land acquisition.
Some 503 jeribs (1 jerib is roughly 0.2 ha), which is located along the railway line, had to be purchased. The cost of land was estimated at 2 million USD.
The work was slower than planned because of security-related hitches. In November 2007, an Iranian engineer working on the railway was abducted from Ghoryan district, and subsequently released. In July 2009, two police officers and two Taleban were killed in an armed clash at a checkpoint in the same district. Ghoryan town on the railway line is roughly half-way between the border and Herat.
Aseeludin Jami, deputy governor of Herat province, was optimistic that work would resume. "It is obvious that work on the fourth section will start," he said.
Big plans are riding on the completion of the project since rail is several times cheaper than transporting goods by road. Economists say the railway will provide traders many more opportunities to expand businesses and bring development to areas close to the railway.
Hameedullah Khadem, chief of the industrialists union of Herat province, was hopeful Herat's first rail line would be a boon for traders.
Abdul Ghafoor of G.F. Aryana Trade Company believes exports to and imports from Central Asia would grow to the advantage of the Afghan government and people. The line is designed for passenger trains to run at 160 km/h, and studied have predicted 321,000 passengers a year, according to the internet. "Freight will be the chief source of revenue, and annual traffic is estimated to reach 6.8 million tonnes including oil products, iron and steel as well as industrial goods," writes Andrew Grantham in the "unofficial website" on railways in Afghanistan.
The project has cost roughly 75 million dollars so far.