Uzbekistan stops freight trains to Afghanistan over Taliban’s ‘breach of contract’

Uzbekistan Railways on Wednesday suspended rail transportation to Afghanistan stating the Taliban authorities failed to honor technical obligations as per an agreement signed in late December.

According to a statement issued on the company’s Facebook page on Tuesday night, transporters were informed that all railway shipments on the Galaba/Hairaton – Mazar-e-Sharif line in Afghanistan’s northern province of Balkh would stop effective Wednesday, February 1.

Uzbekistan Railway stated that since the line was built in 2010, all services to the railway line have been provided by its subsidiary company Sogdiana Trans.

According to the entity, discussions were held with the Taliban in December last year and it was agreed that maintenance of the line would be taken over by Afghanistan Railways Authority before February 1, 2023.

“During the negotiations held in the city of Termez on December 26 to 30, 2022, an ‘Action Plan’ was agreed with the Afghan side for the gradual implementation of technical works in the territory of Afghanistan by the workers of Afghanistan railways before  February 1, 2023.

“Also, during the meeting, Sogdiana Trans and the Afghanistan Railway Authority mutually agreed on the list of works to be performed and their prices, and also agreed to sign a new contract by January 27 of this year, and the relevant Protocol was signed.

“Unfortunately, due to the inability of the Afghanistan Railway Authority to implement the agreed measures on time, it is announced that the railway transportation to Afghanistan will be suspended from February 1,” the statement read.

However, the statement noted that in order to support entrepreneurs and ensure the continuity of freight transportation to Afghanistan so as to prevent the stoppage of transportation of essential goods to the country, Sogdiana Trans will provide practical assistance “in carrying out cargo transportation to Afghanistan through logistics centers in Termez, through automobile transport and through the Termez river port”.

Uzbekistan Railways built the 75-kilometer Hairaton – Mazar-e-Sharif railroad worth $129 million in 2010. Sogdiana Trans was established a year later to operate and service this line.

However, on December 6 last year, just two weeks before negotiations with Uzbekistan Railways, Taliban officials signed a contract with a Kazakhstani company, Mansour Fatih, to manage the Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway line.

At the time, Tashkent media reported that the Kazak company would manage technical issues for the line.