Geography : International

Pakistan

Q. Are there rail connections to Pakistan from India?

[2/99] Before the partition of the subcontinent, there used to be several trains running across what is now the India-Pakistan border. Today, there is only one active rail connection, and the others are in disuse or have been dismantled.

See below for updates! The active link goes Amritsar - Attari - Wagah - Lahore. Attari and Wagah are towns on either side of the border. (The sole active road link between the two countries also goes through Wagah.) Several years ago, a weekly train, the 'Samjhauta Express' ('samjhauta' = 'understanding' in Hindi; often spelled 'Samjhota' in English news sources in Pakistan), used to go all the way from Amritsar to Lahore.

Originally each country was to alternate in supplying a rake for the train for six months at a time. The locos were switched at the border. The agreement fell apart (IR did not provide a rake for over six years), and there were also concerns about the rakes being used for smuggling.

So these days, there is no through train; instead passengers have to switch trains at the border. The Delhi-Attari train, also called the Attari Express, rarely shows up in the printed timetables, although it does appear in schedules at railway stations (number 4001/4002) marked as a special train. Through running was under consideration again [4/01] and also a proposal to increase the frequency of the service, which, when it last ran, was running biweekly. About 8-12 goods trains also crossed the border on this line every week.

Note: [6/02] Since the rise in tensions between India and Pakistan since Dec. 2001, even the existing services have been intermittent.

Note: [1/03] With continuing hostility between the two countries, there seems to be no prospect of the international service ever resuming. The latest reports are that Pakistan has dismantled portions of the track leading from Wagah to the Zero Line (the international border), so through running is in fact not possible right now. Normally (i.e., in the past), the Lahore-Wagah line was a double-tracked BG line. On the Indian side, a few DMU services still run to Attari from Amritsar.

Update: [6/03] Continuing tensions between the countries have meant that little can be said with certainty about the status of the link and its future. Some reports from Pakistan suggest that the trackwork leading up to the Zero Line may have been restored now.

Update: [1/04] Talks between India and Pakistan on the topic of resuming the international train connection resulted in an agreement to restart the Samjhauta Express on January 15, 2004. The rail link agreement has been extended to Jan. 2007.

Another link that has been revived recently is the Munabao (India) to Khokrophar (Pakistan) link. These two towns are about 6km apart across the border. This link was in use until about 1965, with through services between Jodhpur and Karachi. The crack train of the Jodhpur State Railway (the Sind Mail between Ahmedabad and Hyderabad) used to run on this route (Hyderabad - Mirpur Khas - Khokhrapar - Munabao - Barmer - Luni - Jodhpur - Pali - Marawar - Palanpur - Ahmedabad), according to a 1929 issue of the Railway Gazette.

In India, the Munabao line runs south of the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer line. Munabao was the terminus of an MG branch line from Jodhpur via Luni, Samdari and Barmer. The Luni-Barmer-Munabao section has now [2004] been converted completely to BG (Luni-Samdari in Dec. 2002, Samdari-Barmer in August 2003). From Samdari there are lines connecting to Marwar (on the Delhi-Ahmedabad line), Jodhpur (via Luni), and Gandhidham (via Bhildi). Munabao currently has a couple of passenger trains from Barmer.

On the Pakistan side, Khokrophar is the terminus of an MG branch line from Hyderabad (Sind) via Mirpur Khas (135km from Mirpur Khas to the border). Proposals had been floated [9/04] for gauge conversion to be done by 2005. As of 2004, the tracks close to the border were completely unusable and covered in sand drifts. Gauge conversion would be a prerequisite for through running of trains on this line. Pakistan had indicated [11/04] that it was willing to open this link for trough traffic, and a tentative date (Oct. 2005, later modified to Jan. 2006) had even been set for this. Gauge conversion to BG began [5/05] on the Pakistani side, starting from Khokrophar station, using 90lb/ft rails. By [10/05] only about 31km had been converted; another 100km or so remained to be converted, and the opening of train services was postponed from Oct. 2005 to Jan. 2006. Tracks were then [12/05] renovated all the way up to the border on either side, except for a small gap at the zero point which was said to be involved in some diplomatic dispute. After further postponements, the first train service on this renovated link ran on Feb. 17, 2006. The passenger service is named the 'Thar Express'. The train runs overnight from Jodhpur to Munabao; at Munabao, passengers cross over to the Pakistani train for the onward journey after completing border formalities. The connecting train runs from Munabao to Khokrophar and then to Karachi. It is planned that India and Pakistan will each run the cross-border service for 6 months at a time. In Pakistan, seven stations, Jamrao, Shadi Pali, Saeendad, Pithoro, Dhoro Naro, Chhore and Khokhrapar have been renovated for this link. Mirpur Khas to Pithoro is likely to remain dual-gauge for some time, while there is no MG service to Khokraphar now since the BG tracks have been laid on the former MG trackbed. MG lines to Nawabshah and the Pithoro Loop Line remain MG for now -- their future is uncertain.

There also used to be another mail train between Ahmedabad and Hyderabad (Sind) running in the late 1920s with a similar route through Luni but probably bypassing Jodhpur. The Palanpur-Kandla/Bhuj line then extended only up to Deesa, while the line south of Samdari ran only up to Raniwara. Thus, this train used to run from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad via Marwar and Luni.

Also, the Frontier Mail (now renamed the Golden Temple Mail) on WR used to go all the way up to Peshawar during the Raj days and that's why it was named the "Frontier" Mail.

Partial list of former rail connections between the territories of the countries that are now India and Pakistan:

  • Luni - Munabao - Khokropar (MG)
  • Ferozepur - Fazilka - Bahawalnagar - Samasata (through Anupgarh (India) / Amruka & Fort Abbas (Pakistan) near the border).
  • Ferozepur - Kasur - Raiwind - Lahore
  • Amritsar - Attari - Lahore
  • Amritsar - Dera Baba Nanak - Narowal - Sialkot
  • Sialkot - Jammu

See the international links list for more details.

Apart from the Frontier Mail other notable trains that used to run between what are now India and Pakistan included:

  • Punjab Mail (Bombay VT - Lahore, via Delhi / Ferozepur, GIPR)
  • Howrah Lahore Mail via Patna
  • Howrah Express to Lahore
  • Bombay - Lahore Exp. via Delhi, Karnal, Ambala, Ludhiana, Amritsar (? needs confirmation)

Sri Lanka

Q. Are there any rail connections to Sri Lanka from India?

[2/99] There was a rail link to Sri Lanka from India until 1964, with services from Madras to Colombo (the Indo-Ceylon Express). From Madras Egmore passengers took the Rameshwaram Exp. (then known as the "Boat Mail").

The MG track went through Pamban and reached a pier at Dhanushkodi, the southern tip of the island of Rameshwaram and about 27km from the town of Rameshwaram. (The town of Rameshwaram itself was in those days connected by an extension from Dhanushkodi.) Passengers then used a ferry service to cross the 20km (13km?) of open sea at Adam's Bridge (a series of coral reefs), and then boarded the connecting train at Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. The ferry steamer was run by SR (earlier by SIR).

In 1964, a fierce cyclone destroyed much of the track and the pier (and much of the town) at Dhanushkodi. This was never repaired, and today the tracks on the Indian side go directly to Rameshwaram and then stop about 4km before the tip of Rameshwaram island. Traces of the old line still remain in parts, but much of the old tracks have been covered over by new buildings and other development. A new wharf and terminal was constructed at Rameshwaram after the cyclone, and international ferry services continued from there, but in 1984 or 1985 the international ferry service was withdrawn.

Now [2002] there are some suggestions that the ferry service will be resumed, and in both countries terminal services are being set up again. There is also a plan to open ferry services directly between Tuticorin and Colombo, something that existed back in 1913 as well.

Around 1910, there was an attempt by South Indian Rly. to construct a direct railway link from India to Ceylon, by building a viaduct at Panban, but this was not carried through to completion.

Bangladesh

Q. Are there rail connections to Bangladesh from India?

[7/01] Passenger services have been running on a trial basis between the two countries, commencing with the running of the Maitry Express ('Friendship Express') on the 117km stretch between Sealdah and Bongobandhu East in Bangladesh. A 60km stretch from there to Dhaka is under construction (it existed earlier but washed away in a flood in 1978). Prior to this, there have never been any scheduled passenger services between India and Bangladesh since the latter country came into being in 1971. Recently [3/07] passenger and freight services have been proposed between Sealdah / Kolkata terminal (Chitpore) to Joydebpur / Dhaka in Bangladesh, and some trial runs have been made. The proposal is for a 10-coach daily train to run from Gede on the Indian side to Joydebpur across the border, and then on to Dhaka (~330km). Goods trains run regularly between the countries.

In the past there were many trains running between India and East Pakistan. In 1964, there were three trains from Sealdah running into East Pakistan: the East Bengal Express (via Gede to Parbatipur and Goalandu Ghat), the East Bengal Mail (via Gede to Parbatipur) and the Barisal Express (to Khulna via Petrapole). The Barisal Express was a passenger train until 1947, and a mixed train later. A passenger service ran from Karimganj (NFR) to Kulaura (Bangladesh). These services all ceased after the 1965 war.

The BG connections across the border that still exist are Benapole to Petrapole, Gede (Gethe) to Darshana / Chuadanga, and Singhabad (Sinhabad) near Malda to Rohanpur (near Rajshahi). (In all of these the first location is in India and the other is in Bangladesh.) Freight trains have been run on these lines off and on since 1972 after the formation of Bangladesh, and more regularly after transport agreements were signed by the two countries in the 1990s. In 2008, proposals were being considered to run more freight trains, including container services between Uttar Pradesh and Dhaka.

A MG link exists between Mahisasan (Mohishashon) and Shahbazpur. Another link is between Radhikapur and Birol. These last two links are used occasionally for freight. The Petrapole-Benapole link was used for freight in the period 1972-1974. [1/01] Freight services have been re-introduced on this link now, and [7/01] also trial passenger services.

There was also a Darjeeling Mail which ran from Sealdah to Siliguri (on BG) via the Bengal - Assam Railway, across the Sara Bridge, through what later became East Pakistan. That train was discontinued in the 60s (?) and there was no train service from Calcutta to Siliguri until the Meter Gauge Assam Rail Link (between Barsoi and Siliguri?) was completed.

There were also some other MG passenger services between East Pakistan and Assam in India (from Kulaura in E. Pakistan to Karimganj in Assam), with a Pakistani border checkpoint at Latu. Most of eastern Bangladesh is MG (the area around Dhaka is also MG); while the BG network is confined to the western portion.

List of former rail connections between the territories that are now India and Bangladesh:

  • Sealdah - Bongaon - Petrapol - Benapol - Jessore
  • Sealdah - Banpur - Gede - Abdulpur - Parbatipur - Haldibari - Siliguri
  • Katihar - Radhikapur - Biral - Parbatipur - Tista - eetaldaha - Golakganj - Fakiragram
  • Geetaldaha - Alipur duar
  • Mogalhat - Changrabandha - Domohani
  • Badarpur - Kalaura (Sylhet)

See the international links list for more details.

Nepal

Q. Are there rail connections to Nepal from India?

[2/99] Jaynagar is a point close to the India-Nepal border in Bihar. This town has MG service on ER from various points, including Darbhanga which is on the BG network. From Jaynagar, there is a Nepal Govt. Railway train service (2'6" NG) up to Janakpur (Janakpurdham) and Bizalpura (Bijalpura), begun in 1937. The total track length of this section is about 53km. (Was there also service in the past to Deodha and Lewri??). In 1994, the service was augmented by the transfer of 6 8-coach NG rakes and 5 ZDM-5 diesel locomotives from SER's Nagpur division, as the older steam locos used for the line were getting decommissioned. In the late 1990s two more ZDM-5 locomotives were transferred from India. In Nepal, close to Jaynagar, is the erstwhile Khajuri steam shed, where one may still see many derelict steam locos. [6/01] Services still run, per the IR NER timetable. [9/07] Update: Some of the ZDM-5's are still active and trains still run on this line. One ZDM-5 is said to have been scrapped in the late 1990s. The trains are run by the Nepal Railways Corporation, Ltd., the successor of the Transport Corporation of Nepal's Janakpur Railway.

There used to be a Raxaul - Birganj - Amlekhganj MG line (Nepal Government Railway), about 39km long, used for some freight movement. It was built by Martin's of Calcutta in 1924-7, and remained in service until the mid-1960s. Amlekhganj is about several miles inside Nepal. The Birganj-Amlekhganj section was shut down in Dec. 1965. Part of the Raxaul - Birganj spur on the Indian side has been converted to broad gauge. After the Raxaul connection on the Indian side was converted to BG, it was no longer possible for a while to run trains through into Nepal on this line. Through connectivity has recently [7/04] been restored -- the entire stretch from Raxaul to Birgunj has been converted to BG, and goods traffic began moving between Calcutta and Nepal using this link in July 2004.

[2008] The Jaynagar - Bijalpura section is under consideration for conversion to broad gauge, as well as extension to Baridibas.

There is now [5/99] a proposal to convert the 6km stretch from Raxaul in Bihar to Birganj in Nepal to broad gauge to facilitate easier movement of goods from the Calcutta Port to Nepal. [4/03] Although there has been talk of BG conversion for the spur within Nepal for years now, no progress seems to have been made. Now [4/03] there is renewed discussion of not only converting the disused line to Amlekhganj to BG, but extending the line to Kathmandu. [11/03] Update: A link, from Sirsiya (a dry dock facility) in Nepal to Raxaul, about 5.3km in length, was proposed for construction by March 2004; nothing came of this. [8/07] The Pipavav Rail Corporation has now submitted a proposal for constructing the entire 174km route from Birgunj to Kathmandu. In 2008, three other proposals for rail connectivity to Nepal were considered and had preliminary engineering surveys done: New Jalpaiguri (India) to Kakrabitta (Nepal) via Panitanki (46.3km); Nepalganj Road (India) to Nepalganj (Nepal) (12.1km); and Nautanwa (India) to Bhairahawa (Nepal) (15.3km). An agreement signed [1/10] between the two countries also proposes to gauge-convert and improve the Jaynagar-Birdibas line and to build a new line from Baijalpura to Birdibas.

In 2008, the railway link within India to Jogbani (northern Bihar) was upgraded to allow for container traffic (from Kolkata port) to be unloaded and transshipped by road to Biratnagar in Nepal. This eased the movement of cargo which earlier had to be transshipped to road at Katihar, over 100km away. A plan to extend the railway line from Jogbani directly to Biratnagar is [1/09] under consideration. A more sophisticated container facility is also coming up at Bathnaha, 7km from Jogbani.

Nepal trolleybuses
The Transport Corporation of Nepal was established in 1974 in connection with a gift from the Chinese government to Nepal, a complete 11km electric trolleybus system between Kathmandu and Bhaktapur with 22 trolleybuses built by Shanghai Bus Factory. The trolleybuses are Shanghai's model SK500, and there were also some petrol and diesel buses (SK541, SK600).

Lastly, there are other disused 2'6" lines: Bhimnagar (in Nepal) to Kosi dam (on the border), Bhimnagar to Forbesganj (in India, south of Jogbani) which connected to the IR MG network (includes a section Birpur-Dharan?). These are connected to the Kosi Irrigation Project (Kosi Barrage Railway) which was a pre-war project revived in 1952. Although expected to finish in 1962 it took considerably longer. About 20 NG steam locomotives were used on the railway. Some were still in use in 1982, although by 1987 all had stopped working.

To complete the record, other lines in Nepal include the following: Bhimnagar - Chhakraghatti, Chhakraghatti - Chhatra - Kosi River wharf, Chhakraghatti - Ghopa (Dharan) (this section was closed by 1982), and an aerial cableway from Ghopa to a stone quarry.

See the international links list for more details.

Bhutan

Q. Are there rail connections to Bhutan?

Currently [1/05] there are no railways at all in Bhutan. However, recently a proposal has been floated to link Bhutan's border towns with three railheads in Assam and two in West Bengal. In this proposal, the following cross-border lines would be constructed:

  • Banarhat, West Bengal -- Samchi (Samtse) (16km)
  • Hashimara, West Bengal -- Phuentsholing (18km), with a possible extension to Pasakha
  • Kokrajhar, Assam -- Gelekphu (70km)
  • Pathsala, Assam -- Nanglam (40km)
  • Rangia, Assam -- Sandrup Jonghkar via Darranga (60km)

There has been no progress on these proposals. In October 2009, these proposed links to Bhutan came up again in press releases and announcements.

China, Myanmar (Burma), South-East Asia

Q. Are there rail connections to China or Burma (Myanmar) from the northeast of India?

[5/99] At present, none. (And there have never been any in the past during British rule either.)

In the northeast, going up the Brahmaputra valley, the Indian rail network comes quite close to China. It also comes near Burma at two places, though there are considerable gaps before the actual border is reached. The nearest Indian railhead to Myanmar is Lekhapani at the end of the (newly converted) broad gauge branch line from Tinsukia Jn). (Passenger services currently terminate at Ledo. There used to be passenger service until Lekhapani in the 1970s. It is said that there are occasional special services between Ledo and Lekhapani for colliery employees.) On the Myanmar side the nearest railhead is a few hundred kilometres south-east of Lekhapani at Myitkyina.

There are considerable difficulties in any proposed connection to China from here even though this is very close to the international border between India and China. Both to the north and to the east the territory on approaching and entering China is very difficult and mountainous. Incidentally, the old Ledo Road (also known as the Stilwell Road for Gen. Joseph Stilwell, commander of US forces in the area during the Second World War), which provided a wartime connection between India/Burma and China started here, at Ledo, and conected through many winding mountain passes with China's Yunnan province.

The other possibility for connecting to Burma is from Jiribam on the Assam-Manipur border at the end of the MG line from Badarpur Jn. and Silchar. However, the entire state of Manipur has to be traversed before the border is reached at the twin towns of Moreh (India) and Tamu (Myanmar). On the Myanmar side, the rail network does not currently extend to Tamu, but would have to be extended from Kalay, 83km away. [1/06] There is a proposal being considered by India and Myanmar to construct the Jiribam-Imphal-Moreh line in India, and the Tamu (Moreh) - Kalay - Segyi line in Myanmar, along with rehabilitation of the existing Segyi-Chaungu Myohaung line in that country. [8/07] RITES is conducting a feasibility study on this link.

In both cases the connecting railway lines, if built, would have to cut paths across some formidable mountain ranges, not to mention the Chindwin River and thick tropical jungle. These deterrents are probably what prevented such rail connections from being built in the past.

Further to the South, Bangladesh Railways also comes close to Myanmar in the Chittagong area. But then come the Hill Tracts followed by the daunting Arakans. A railway line that closely follows the coast may be one possibility here.

All railway lines in Myanmar are meter-gauge lines, reducing the value of a cross-border link because of the need for transshipment of freight from the main BG Indian network. There has also not been any political desire for such a link. (Although it has been suggested by some railway authorities a few times in recent years that the railway lines in Tripura (which reach until Kumarghat) could be extended into Myanmar and further south.)

Q. What is the possibility of a rail link to South-East Asia and Singapore?

The idea of a rail link to Singapore comes up every so often. Myanmar railway lines are meter-gauge. So are the railways in Thailand and Malaysia. So the value of such a link for freight transportation is greatly diminished by the need for transshipment at some point to get to the main BG network in India. Furthermore, in Burma the southern section of the railway network is not connected to the northern one, there being a gap at Moulmein, so that a bridge would have to be converted, or a ferry system used from Martaban.

This problem turns up with connections from Bangladesh to the branches going to Mandalay; otherwise, connecting with lines going to Pathein pose other problems as that is another separate section of Myanmar railways. Going further south, the link between the Myanmar network and the Thai network no longer exists, as most of the lines laid down by the Japanese during the war (the infamous "Death Railway") were ripped up a long time back. So this link is something that would take a lot of work to bring to life.

Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia

Q. Are there continuous rail connections from India to Central Asia or Europe?

[8/11] Ignoring political and practical problems in actually using such connections for passenger services, as of 2009 or so the answer is Yes!! There are continuous physical railway connections from easternmost India all the way to the UK. Read on...

From Quetta in Pakistan, the Nushki Extension Railway runs through Mirjaveh (Mirjawa) on the border to Zahidan (Zahedan, also known as Duzdap) in Iran on 5'6" gauge. (It passes close by the live Kuh-i-Taftan (Koh-i-Taftan) volcano.) This line was constructed started from Spezand Jn. near Quetta to Nushki in 1905. Extension work continued from 1917, reaching Zahidan by 1922 (1918?), covering 704km (440 miles).

Trains have been running intermittently on this section towards Zahidan from Pakistan from about 1918. By the 1930s only the first 350km (219 miles) were in use and most of the remainder was dismantled. It was then rebuilt in 1942 as a route for Allied war material to reach the USSR. The line is a BG line. Because of moving sand dunes common in the area which often cover the railway line, at many places the line is built with duplicate stretches; the crew chooses the branches that are not covered (or are less covered) by sand.

After 1942 too, passenger services operated intermittently. Later a weekly passenger service was begun, which used to take 38 hours, an average of about 19km/h. Track maintenance and station crews are Iranian for about the last 50 miles to Zahidan (since about 1967), but the rest of the link is operated by Pakistan Railways. The Taftan Express and one other service now run regularly from Quetta in Pakistan. Currently [5/01] it runs on the 1st and 5th of every month from Quetta and returns on the 3rd and 17th of every month from Zahidan. The journey takes 31 hours. The usual motive power is a Quetta shed Alco DL-500 all the way to Zahidan. Because of the remoteness of the line, a spare loco is kept on the branch about 12 hours out of Zahidan.

However, from Zahidan, onward connections to Kerman and beyond in Iran were not in place for several decades, until about 2009. This was the big "missing link" of a potential UK-India route. West of Kerman is the main Iranian network, which is all standard gauge, 4'8½". It has connections to Central Asia (via Mashhad through Sarakhs on the border to Turkmenistan, with a gauge change to CIS broad gauge of 1520mm), with connections to Tashkent / Dushanbe / Ashkhabad, etc. ([4/00] Freight service exists; passenger service reportedly begun or soon to begin.) Iran also has connections to Europe via Turkey (from Tabriz through Razi on the border to Ankara; there is a ferry across Lake Van in eastern Turkey and another across the Hellespont), and north through Azerbaijan (via Jolfa on the border to Baku, Erevan, etc.).

This last missing section in Iran was intermittently under construction in the 1990s and planned to be completed by 2002 or so but construction went on for quite a while until the Kerman - Bam and Bam - Shur Gaz sections were completed on June 9, 2009. Passenger services on the Zahedan - Bam section were opened in September 2010 by Iran Railways. A demonstration train with container freight left Islamabad in Pakistan on August 14, 2009, on a two-week trip to Turkey, with the containers being transhipped to standard gauge bogies at Zahedan. With the completion of the Kerman to Zahidan link in Iran, one can theoretically (very theoretically!) ride the rails (with changes due to differences in gauge) from the UK all the way to Assam! Note that Iran Railways have started running passenger services on the new Bam-Zahedan section as of September 2010.

Afghanistan has no railways (*see Note below), so there are no links onwards to Central Asia in that direction. On the Pakistan side the BG line of the former Khyber Railway reaches Landi Khana (2km from the border). The Khyber Railway line starts from Peshawar Cantt. The section up to Landi Kotal was completed in 1925 and the remaining section (a downward incline with ruling gradient of 1:25) from Landi Kotal to Landi Khana in 1926. Tracks further from Landi Khana to the border post (2km) were built but never used.

Also in Pakistan, the BG line of the former Chaman Extension Railway reaches Chaman, where the buffer stops are about 200 yards short of the Afghan border. This was part of the ambitiously planned Kandahar State Rly. which was to have reached Kandahar in Afghanistan from Ruk on the Indus State Rly. The Chaman extension starts from Bostan, north of Quetta. The construction of the Chaman line involved the completion, in 1891, of the Khojak tunnel, then the longest railway tunnel in British India. Update [11/03] A news report from Pakistan Railways suggests that a new railway line from Chaman to Kandahar has been proposed; the projected completion date is 2010.

A 15km 1.524m gauge (CIS broad gauge) spur runs from Termiz (Termez) in Uzbekistan into Afghanistan, terminating at the Kheyrabad transshipment point on the south bank of the Amu Darya. Termiz is connected - via the 'Friendship Bridge' over the Amu Darya, to the rest of the CIS (ex-Soviet) railway network, westwards via Turkmenistan and onwards to Quarshi, Bukhara, and Samarkand, as well as eastwards to Dushanbe in Tajikistan. A 9.6km spur, also of CIS broad gauge, runs from Gushgy (Kushka) in Turkmenistan to Towraghondi in Afghanistan; Gushgy is also on the CIS network. These spurs were built by the Soviets during their occupation of Afghanistan.

[5/10] A new project has been started, with the help of a grant from the Asian Development Bank, to extend the spur from Termez in Uzbekistan all the way to Mazar-i-Sharif (approximately 75km). It is projected to be completed by September 2010. Future plans for this line include an envisioned extension to Herat and then connections eastward to Iran as well.

In the past there was a 32km stretch of MG track laid by the British from the north-west territory in what is now Pakistan towards Afghanistan along the Kabul valley and turning westwards towards the Loi Shilman valley. This was dismantled in 1909.

Andrew Grantham has written an exhaustive account of Afghanistan's railways - built and proposed.

Note: Earlier this page erroneously claimed that this line entered Afghanistan. Loi Shilman, however, is within modern-day Pakistan. The error is regretted.

[* Note: There were some locomotives (diesel-hydraulics, 600mm gauge) delivered to Afghanistan in the past for power plants and dams. There was a steam tramway built from Kabul to Darulaman, which used two Henschel steam locomotives; the line was not in use for long.]

See below for some more recent news on proposals for railway links with Afghanistan.

India is a signatory to an agreement among several Central Asian countries, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and others, for interconnecting their rail systems to provide connections from the interior (Russia, Central Asia) to major sea ports and into the Indian subcontinent. The initial project is dubbed "NOSTRAC" (North-South Transport Corridor). So far [4/00] this has mostly been a lot of talk without any real work.

Another proposed pan-Asian project is "TAR", the Trans-Asian Railway. This is a proposal under the aegis of ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) to which India also belongs, under the Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development (ALTID) project. The TAR project envisions three Asian rail corridors, a northern one, a central one, and a southern one, to link southern China and south-east Asia with Europe.

The proposed termini for the routes are Kunming in China, Bangkok in Thailand, and Kapikule in Bulgaria. The route from Thailand is supposed to go through Myanmar, enter India at Tamu (in Manipur), go through Bangladesh at Mahisasan / Shahbazpur, and re-enter India at Gede. Subsidiary routes that are part of this project for pan-Asian connectivity include Haldia - Calcutta, Abdulpur - Rohanpur - Singhapur - Raxaul (Bangladesh-Nepal). On the other side the route from India goes through Pakistan and Iran to Turkey and from there to Bulgaria.

As with the NOSTRAC scheme, this has so far [4/00] been mostly a lot of proposals on paper. There is now [6/03] some more talk about a project to link India with south-east Asia (through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and ending in Hanoi in Vietnam) under the auspices of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation group.

[1/03] Recently China, Iran, and other countries have been discussing the possibility of constructing railway links between the Central Asian Republics, China, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. One proposal calls for a line from Gwadar port in Pakistan to Taftan via southern Baluchistan, Saindak, Reko Diq, and Dalbandin. China and Pakistan are also said to have agreed [7/04] to extend China's East-West Railway 760km beyond the Chinese border city of Kashi into Pakistan, up to Peshawar. The Gawadar port is also being improved and given additional rail and road links [7/04] so that eventually this may become a major transit point for traffic for western China as well as for the Central Asian states.

Another proposal is the extension of a Pakistan Railways line from Chaman into southern Afghanistan including Kandahar and Herat, and then reaching Khushka in Tajikistan, which is already connected to the railway networks in Central Asia, or to Towraghondi, connecting to the short existing spur to Uzbekistan, or also to Shirkhan Bandar on the border with Tajikistan. The Karachi-Chaman mainline section of PR would also have to be upgraded, as would the Khushka-Gwadar link. Iran is also said to be interested in links to the PR network around Chagai (Saindak, Reko Diq). [5/07] Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed upon a proposal to construct a 10.5km stretch of railway tracks from Chaman to Spin Boldak in Afghanistan in 2008-2009 which would be the first step in connecting to Kandahar and beyond. Separately there is work (at varying levels of planning or execution) on railway lines in Afghanistan, e.g., Hayratan - Mazar-i-Sharif, Aqina-Andkhoy.

An international connection that did exist in the past but is no longer a possibility is that between India (both British India and independent India) and the territory of Goa, which until 1961 was a colony of Portugal and not part of India. The MG railway line from Marmagoa to Castle Rock was originally owned and operated by the West of India Portuguese Railway (which despite its name was a British company) and it connected with the line in British India from Londa. The terminus of the line today is Vasco da Gama. For travellers between Goa and British India, and later between Goa and India, all the formalities of international travel including customs checks and verification of travel documents were carried out at Castle Rock.

Another such international connection consisted of the railway line between Villupuram and Pondicherry, while Pondicherry was French territory (until 1954). There was a single border checkpoint on this route at Chinnababusamudram. Passenger trains ran daily between Villupuram and Pondicherry in the 1940s and 1950s.

Note: This site is not officially affiliated with Indian Railways! The official web site of Indian Railways is: http://www.indianrailways.gov.in
Site contact: webmaster@irfca.org
Copyright © 2010, IRFCA.org. About IRFCA  Contact Us  Search this site  Site Map  Links   Acknowledgements  Legal Information & Disclaimers