February 6, 2013
The Chinese government has confirmed that it finally plans to go ahead with construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, Kyrgyzstan's Deputy Prime Minister Tayirbek Sarpashev announced on February 5.
Returning from a visit to Beijing, Sarpashev told a Bishkek press conference that Chinese officials had reaffirmed their intention to go ahead with the $2bn project, Kabar reports. "After the feasibility study the sides will begin development of action plan, including raising funds," the official said.
A new feasibility study for the strategic regional route was completed in January 2013. It is now being translated from Chinese into Russian, and is due to be submitted to the Kyrgyz and Uzbek governments within the next few weeks. The idea to construct a railroad linking China and Uzbekistan through Kyrgyzstan was first announced in 1996.
The planned railway will run from the Chinese market town of Kashagar across Kyrgyzstan, and enter Uzbekistan near Kara-Suu - Kyrgyzstan's second largest bazaar - to connect to the main Uzbek rail network at Andijan. The route has not been finalised; in particular discussions about whether it will run through the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek are still ongoing.
The railway will make it easier to transport Chinese consumer goods to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as for China to import raw materials from both Central Asian countries.
Both Bishkek and Tashkent have already given their backing to the project. On his appointment as Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister in September, Zhantoro Atybaldiyev confirmed that his government would support the project. Two months later, Uzbekistans's Deputy Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade Bakhtiar Abdusamatov reiterated Uzbek backing.
A feasibility study for a rival railway from Iran via Afghanistan and Central Asia to China was also completed in January 2013. With Beijing firmly behind the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan route, it's unclear whether China will also provide funding for the second line.