Pak-Afghan-Uzbek Railway Line to enhance regional connectivity

ISLAMABAD: The proposed railway line linking Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan will enhance connectivity in the region, reports WealthPK.
This strategically important Peshawar-Kabul-Mazar-i-Sharif-Termiz railway line will enhance regional connectivity via trilateral trade, an official of Pakistan Railways told WealthPK, pleading anonymity.
In response to a question, the official said the project faced some difficulties because the rail tracks of the three countries were of different gauges and it took time for goods to reach the desired destinations. The width of Pakistan’s rail track is 1,676mm, of Afghanistan 1,435mm and of Uzbekistan 1,520mm, he explained.
Nevertheless, it would still take less time in transhipment of goods from Pakistan to Uzbekistan as compared to other means of transport and will also be cost-effective and environment-friendly, the official maintained.
According to the World Bank study, a single freight train is equivalent to 100 trucks. In addition, since logistics is an extremely price-sensitive sector, it makes even more sense for public and private sector investment to be allocated for rail development. This is because a gallon of fuel can transport a tonne of goods over a distance of 250 miles using rail compared to only 90 miles by road. Added value also comes from fuel efficiency and the faster routes to market the rail offers. That is why internationally, almost 50% of all cargo is hauled by railways.
An official from the Board of Investment (BOI) told WealthPK that this railway line will provide Pakistan with a gateway for access to Central Asian and European markets, thereby boosting trade integration and connectivity. Moreover, it will also help Pakistan boost job opportunities and wealth creation, the official said.
According to WealthPK research, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan signed a $4.8 billion rail line project in 2021. With a track length of 573km, the proposed rail link would link Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent with Afghanistan’s capital Kabul and Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar. Since the project aims to improve regional trade and connectivity by offering landlocked Central Asia direct access to Pakistan’s Arabian Sea ports, it is regarded as the “event of the century” in Uzbekistan.
After it becomes operational, the railway will have the capacity to transport up to 20 million tons of cargo per annum. The transit time for goods from Uzbekistan to Pakistan will shorten by 8 to 10 days.
According to the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation, investment in railway assets and implementation of related soft measures to enhance trade will be critical factors in making the railways attractive for shippers and transport operators. Enhancing railway connectivity, promoting trade and investment across borders, and improving access to external markets will help improve the economic prospects of the countries.
The Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) train is the best example of regional connectivity. Numerous ITI freight trains have already concluded their journey, shipping a variety of commodities.
The ITI train is not only connecting these three countries, but will also going to forge a link between Europe and Asia. Istanbul can provide a quick connection to Europe with the use of its Marmara undersea railway tunnel. The tunnel, which was recently opened to rail freight traffic, offers a faster link between Europe and Asia.