Turkey steps up to improve Afghanistan’s infrastructure

Turkey and Afghanistan will collaborate closely on transport infrastructure projects to upgrade Afghanistan’s profile after several years of war. On Thursday 28 January,  the country signed a research and development cooperation agreement with this ambition. Motorways, railways and aviation constitute the main focus of the agreement. However, rail seems to have a more prominent position in the plans.

Adil Karaismanoglu, Transport Minister of Turkey, stated that his country is “willing to undertake the necessary procedures to increase the rail transport possibilities between the two countries and create new cooperation opportunities”.

Part of BTK railway line

Following a meeting with his Afghan counterpart, Karaismanoglu also mentioned that Turkey intends to connect Afghanistan with Europe through the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line using the Lapis Lazuli route.

The Lapis Lazuli corridor started its operations in 2018. It connects Afghanistan’s northern Faryab province with Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan. From there it continues to Azerbaijan through the Caspian Sea and reaches Georgia and Turkey by rail. Undoubtedly, this development is of note since it boosts Afghanistan’s role in Middle-Eastern and Asian transportation and its position in the New Silk Road.

The Lapis Lazuli corridor

Series of developments

Afghanistan follows a sequence of developments regarding its accessibility in rail routes. For instance on 10 December 2020, it launched a new rail link with Iran. The opening of the Khaf (Iran)-Herat (Afghanistan) railway line meant that apart from better connectivity between the two countries, Afghanistan would also have the opportunity to run trains with Turkey via Iran. The three countries’ railway administrations will come together in the coming months to set a course for rail transport between Turkey and Afghanistan.

On the other hand, it is not accidental that Turkey always finds itself in the centre of these developments. The country gained much momentum recently and seems to be focusing in expanding its network to the East, while also functioning as a gateway to Europe. Expectations for a million tonnes of rail freight between Turkey and Iran during 2021 and the initiative to revive the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad train’s services also indicate Turkey’s determination to become a protagonist.

Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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