THE governments of China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have signed an agreement to build a 523km new railway connecting the three countries, estimated to cost $US 8bn and forming part of China’s Belt and Road initiative.

The agreement signed in Beijing on June 6 sets out the principles and mechanisms for cooperation between the three countries in relation to the financing, construction, operation and maintenance of the new railway.

A full feasibility study for the project was completed in mid-2023. China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan subsequently agreed to deliver the project by means of a joint venture of their three respective state railways.

In addition to building the new line running from Kashgar in China via Torugart, Makmal and Jalalabad in Kyrgyzstan to Andijan in Uzbekistan, the project will involve the creation of modern logistics infrastructure along the route, including freight terminals and warehousing.

Once completed, the new railway is expected to carry 15 million tonnes of freight a year and cut end-to-end transit times by seven days.

According to the president of Kyrgyzstan, Mr Sadyr Japarov, the new railway will open up new routes to Europe and the Persian Gulf. “Undoubtedly, it will have a comprehensive positive impact on trade and economic cooperation between our countries,” he says.

“This railway will become the shortest land link connecting China with our region,” says the president of Uzbekistan, Mr Shavkat Mirziyoyev. “In the future, it will allow access through the promising Trans-Afghan corridor to the capacious markets of the countries of south Asia and the Middle East.”