About ARA (Afghanistan Railway Authority)

Vision of GoIRA on Railway Infrastructure Development

Transport carries men and material from one place to another, playing an important role in the economic development of the nation, and in the social and cultural life of the people, and promoting national and regional integration.

The Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework vision is that Afghanistan’s location as a transit hub between East, South, Central and West Asia will become a major economic resource. The government has already made the first investments in cross-border energy transmission, water resource development, and dry hubs for long-distance trans-shipment. Afghanistan’s recent accession to the World Trade Organization will facilitate more cross-border projects and policy reforms to promote cross-border trade if sufficient financing can be identified. Afghanistan as the land-bridge of the region, connecting Central Asia to South Asia, will provide land routes for Chinese goods to Europe, serve as the hub for the Silk Road’s trade and transit route, and provide access to warm ports for Central Asian nations via Chabahar and Gwadar ports.


Afghanistan’s infrastructure was largely destroyed during the Soviet invasion, civil conflicts after 1979, and poor maintenance since then. In more than 30 years of conflict virtually no development took place, leaving a huge infrastructure deficit. After 2002, Afghanistan planned to develop major infrastructure projects such as the national rail network, electrical systems whose demands are increasing by 25 per cent annually, national road networks, dams and airfields, all critical issues for Afghanistan.

Historical Perspective and Emergence of ARA

  • ARA was established in 2004 as a small department under the MoPW, expanded in 2009 to a Directorate, and a General Directorate in November 2012.
  • On 1 January 2016 the Cabinet decided to make ARA an independent budgetary unit of GoIRA.
  • ARA aims to develop the missing railways links in and around Afghanistan, a landlocked country.
  • The history of the old Silk Road shows the connectivity between the Mediterranean Sea via the Caspian Sea to the Aral Sea and the land passage through the Afghanistan–Hindu Kush belt, through South Asia and Central Asia Russia and China.
  • ARA developed its first Master Plan in 2013 with the support of USAID and decided to adopt the 1,435 mm gauge as most countries with which the trade links shall be established has this standard gauge.
  • The route selection was done after analysis of alternative routes.
  • To provide seamless linkages ARA seeks to establish safe and reliable transit and transport services as well develop the railways as a self-sustaining industry for attracting the private sector and for contributing to the economic growth of the country.