While already in use, the Herat-Khaf railway--a major joint infrastructural project between Afghanistan and Iran--officially opened on Thursday.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both spoke online at the ceremony. Both presidents said they wanted to attend in person, but neither did due to COVID-19 fears.
The Herat-Khaf railway will strengthen relations between Afghanistan and Iran, Rouhani said.
President Ghani called the Herat-Khaf railway a vital and important project, not only for Afghanistan and Iran but also for the region and beyond.
“Today we witness the inauguration of the historic Khaf-Herat railway project as the result of tireless efforts of the two nations in the area of regional connectivity and reaching to economic prosperity in the future,” said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who spoke virtually alongside the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani during the ceremony.
“Our relations have always been based on the heart, cultures, ideas, and efforts. Today the launching of this railway link further intensifies this relation,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“It will create a major hope for the 600,000 unemployed youths who live in Herat. This will also increase our exports,” said Sayed Wahid Qatali, the governor of Herat.
Afghan officials have said that the project will decrease the costs of products that Afghanistan exports to the other destinations in the region.
Khaf-Herat railway is 130 km long, with 70 km in Iran and 60 km in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hailed the joint railway project linking eastern Iran to western Afghanistan as a boost to regional trade and travel.
Khaf-Herat railway is important "not only for Iran and Afghanistan, but for the greater region,” Zarif said in a tweet, adding that “as a gateway that'll boost trade and people-to-people exchanges, it will also contribute to regional stability and development.”
A week ago, for the first time, imported goods arrived in Herat from Iran via the Herat-Khaf railway. The cargo was “500 (metric) tons of cement," said officials.
Meanwhile, another passenger train carrying Iranian officials also arrived in the Ghoryan district of Herat.
Afghanistan can now benefit from a railway that for the first time links Turkey and Europe with Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf.
The project was started in April 2007 with Iran’s aid at a cost of $75 million and was due to finish in 2009 but was delayed because of various issues.
Completion of the project will affect transit facilities in Afghanistan and solve many investors' and merchants’ problems.
Overview of Khaf-Herat Railway
With the completion of this project, Afghanistan can take advantage of a railway for the first time that provides access to Turkey and Europe via Iran's ports in the Persian Gulf.
The project was started in April 2007. Iran’s pledged $75 million in aid and the project was due to finish in 2009, but was delayed.
Completion of the project will increase transit opportunities in Afghanistan and is intended to solve many investors' and merchants’ problems.
The Herat-Khaf railway is the largest joint infrastructural project between Iran and Afghanistan.