Uzbekistan The Big Winner In China’s New Central Asian CKU Railway


The CKU Railways will create significant trade opportunities for Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan while linking China directly to the Middle East via Rail, with spin off benefits throughout the region

China has finally pushed the ‘Go’ button on the long-awaited China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railway, with work on the route expected to start in spring next year. The Kyrgyz President, Sadyr Zhaparov, made the announcement last week.

«We will start in 2023 after the feasibility study is completed this year. The feasibility study is being prepared with the participation of three parties. There will be jobs. Our economy will boom,» said Zhaparov, noting that it has been 20 years since Kyrgyzstan wanted to build this railway.

Delays have been created by sheer logistical and technical difficulties as well as the high cost. Kyrgyzstan is mountainous and the line will need the boring of over 90 tunnels, while winter weather conditions are also difficult. China access will be from the Kashgar Rail Terminus in West Xinjiang Province which is already connected to China’s national rail network.

The CKU Route As A Transit Corridor To The EU & Middle East

The CKU route, which will become the southern part of China-Europe freight rail, will link China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan to Central and Eastern Europe via Iran and Turkey. According to proposed plans, the total length of the CKU railway is about 523 kilometers, including 213 kilometers in China, 260 kilometers in Kyrgyzstan and about 50 kilometers in Uzbekistan.

From Uzbekistan, it can then connect with Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan rail to the Turkmenbashi Port on the Caspian Sea, where it can intersect with either Baku Port in Azerbaijan and onto markets in Georgia, Turkey and the Black Sea EU nations of Bulgaria and Romania, or it can head south to Iranian Caspian Ports such as Anzali, head south by rail (also being completed in 2023) via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) to the southern Iranian Port at Chabahar. Maritime access then leads to the Middle East, East Africa, and India.

Uzbek officials have said that when completed, the railway will be the shortest route to transport goods from China to Europe and the Middle East, cutting the freight journey by 900 kilometers and saving seven to eight days in shipping time. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan officials have ready been planning for bilateral transit connectivity along their onward section of the CKU route while Turkmenistan and Iran have been doing the same. Iran has also been discussing INSTC connectivity with Qatar.

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Source: Belt & Road News