KABUL: A trial run of cargo from Iran to Afghanistan via Khaf-Herat railroad was launched and completed in May. The shipment included 17 wagons that transferred 655 tons of rail equipment that will be used in the further construction of the rail line, which will link up with the rail network of China and India.
The Khaf-Herat railroad is 225 kilometers long, with 140 km of the railroad traversing Afghanistan and the remaining 85 km running through Iran. Its construction, which links Khaf in eastern Iran with Herat in western Afghanistan, began back in 2007. The project has a reported value of $75 million and is funded by Iran.
The Khaf-Herat rail project has been part of a proposed $2 billion Five Nations Railway Corridor, which would run through Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. The total length is 2,000 km and the rail route runs from Herat to the Afghan-Tajik border and, after crossing Tajikistan, passes through Kyrgyzstan, where it will reach China’s Xinjiang region via the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railroad.
Transportation links have been a key part of Iran and Afghanistan’s strategy to bolster their international position in the wake of their estrangement from the West and the crisis in Ukraine. To this end, the trial run of the Khaf-Herat railroad project provides an opportunity for Tehran and Kabul to show that, in spite of the efforts of the West, they are not isolated.
The development of new transit routes represents Iran’s efforts to help facilitate the flow of goods the West wants to stop. This new reality has elevated transport projects to provide a lifeline to the Iranian and Afghan economies. By linking the Khaf-Herat railroad to broader rail networks, Iran aims to take advantage of regional overland trade routes.