ADB provides $165m for Mazar-Hairatan railway line
(Pajhwok Afghan News Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Construction work on a 75-kilometre railway line, linking Mazar-i-Sharif -- capital of northern Balkh province with the Hairatan border town of neighboring Uzbekistan -- is expected to commence on Thursday (tomorrow). Boosting Afghanistan's efforts to develop safer and sustainable transport systems that improve connectivity with neighboring countries, a contract for a $165 million grant was signed between the Ministry of Finance and Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Kabul on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Mohammad Omar Zakhilwal told Pajhwok Afghan News the $169.5 million project was being funded through the ADB grant. He claimed Afghanistan had the capacity to serve as a reliable transit route for commodities from Pakistan, the Middle East, Far East and Europe.
After the signing ceremony, ADB's Transport Specialist Balabhaskara Reddy Bathula said: "This line will boost freight volumes, lower costs, raise the profile of Afghanistan as a transit route and complement two major transport corridors being developed under the Central Asia Regional Cooperation Programme (CAREC)." Part of CARECs broad effort to improve connectivity throughout the region, supporting growth and alleviating poverty, the project is the first phase of a larger rail network planned for the country.
Bathula described the scheme as one of ADB priorities. Commerce Minister Waheedullah Shahrani said Afghanistan received almost 40 percent of commodities through the Hairatan Port. Once the railway line was constructed, he hoped, the figure would considerably increase.
The Ministry of Public Works will implement the project in a year and a half year.
The ADBs grant covers 97 percent of the total project cost, with Afghanistan contributing $5 million. Zakhilwal recalled the ADB had vowed in 2002 to assist the country with a $1.4billion grant. So far $547 million have been delivered to Afghanistan.
Hairatan is the gateway for almost half of Afghanistans imports and much of its humanitarian relief goods. As a result of the project, Hairatan station yard will be upgraded and a transshipment terminal built.
In order to address past problems linked to transport projects, such as cost overruns and delays, the government will be entering direct contracts with the Uzbekistan Railways Company for the engineering, procurement and construction of the new facilities, and for their operation and maintenance.
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