AT Monitoring Desk
KABUL: A senior Iranian official said a major railway connecting Iran and neighboring Afghanistan will be ready in March as construction of a key cross-border line is nearing completion.
Abbas Khatibi, a deputy to Iran’s roads and urban development minister, said that the Iran would link up Afghanistan to its railway once construction for the line connecting the city of Khaf in eastern Iran to the Afghan city of Herat is finished, Press TV reported on Sunday.
Khatibi said a major part of 191-kilometer railway would be complete in March or at last in April, 2019, allowing the two neighboring countries to kick off rail transportation.
Iran has almost finished its part of the Khaf-Herat railway, which runs 139 kilometers in three sections straddling the border between the two countries. Reports in the Afghan media have suggested that the country is intent on completing the fourth and final section of the project through partnership with an Italian contractor.
Once finished, the railway would hugely boost trade between Iran and Afghanistan, a country which has no active railway system, while it would help the Afghans to use various transportation corridors via Iran to expand business with other countries.
Lack of security in Afghanistan has been a major hurdle for completion of the railway. A mine explosion earlier this year on the Afghan side of the project killed one Iranian contractor and injured his colleague.
Iran has implemented massive plans for expansion of its domestic railway network while it has pursued plans for linking up to neighboring countries to facilitate trade.
Afghanistan is expected to hugely benefit from development of the Iranian rail network, especially through a key link connecting the port city of Chabahar on the Sea of Oman to Zahedan, near the Afghan border.
The massive project, which is jointly built by Iran and India, is meant to facilitate trade from the Indian Ocean via Iran to Afghanistan and further north to the Central Asian countries.