By Vusala Abbasova
Turkmenistan has completed the 45th kilometer of its portion of a railway that is slated to pass from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and into Tajikistan.
The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan (TAT) Railway, with an overall length of 400 km, is an important link in the international transport operations between the countries of Central Asia.
The Atamyrat-Imamnazar section of the railway, which lies in Turkmenistan, will have a total length of 85 kilometers and will be Turkmenistan’s last stop on the international transport corridor.
The TAT railway has an estimated cost of $1.5-2 billion is being developed as part of the Central Asia Regional Cooperation Program. It is primarily financed by the Asian Development Bank, which has allocated $350 million to Afghanistan for its 37-mile section between Akina and Andho.
On the 23rd km of the railway, work is being done on the ground infrastructure facilities, while on the 36th km progress is being made on filling rubble-gravel mixtures. At the 46th km mark, the preparation of soil roadbed (soil bed) is in progress.
The project holds significant importance for creating new regional and inter-regional transport and communication corridors in Turkmenistan, and is of strategic, political and economic importance for all participating countries.
Future prospects are largely dependent on the proper adaptation of the railway network and its services to the capacities of new transit and export-import cargo, which have become an important source of exports of services and foreign exchange revenues.
Afghanistan shares long borders with Turkmenistan and Tajikistan (750 and 1,300 kilometers respectively).
According to Afghani experts, the trade between Afghanistan and Tajikistan grew to 130 million dollars in the last ten years.
The European Trade Committee estimated the value of Afghanistan’s trade with Tajikistan to 69.6 million euros and its trade with Turkmenistan to 163.1 million euros in 2010.
This trans-regional railroad project is likely to increase trade turnover.
The project expands regional infrastructures, connects landlocked countries with seaways, and opens a new corridor between Central Asia and world markets through seaports on the coast of the Indian Ocean that will halve the distance to the Baltic Sea coast via Russia.
The TAT railway project is expected to be fully operational by 2018.
The Turkmen Ministry of Economy earlier reported that China, Iran, and Kyrgyzstan had expressed the interest in the TAT railway project at the start of its construction.
Moreover, the Tajikistan Transport Ministry announced that the railway route would stretch into Iran.
To date, the Turkmen section of the route is under construction, while Tajikistan still seeks funding for a feasibility study on its portion of the railway.
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