2020-2021 Country Highlights

The CAREC Transport Strategy (CTS) 2030 underlines CAREC’s commitment to help member countries (MCs) modernize and expand their respective transport networks to improve connectivity, gain greater access to global markets, and spur cross-border trade and growth, with the resulting economic gains accruing ultimately to CAREC member countries (MCs) both individually and collectively as a region. The transport sector has made important achievements over the past year despite the impact of COVID-19. Events, knowledge products, and construction work under CAREC projects were completed or have proceeded in a reasonably timely manner despite slight delays in the early months of the pandemic.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s unique geographical location provides it an opportunity to become a key trade and transit hub between Middle East-PRC and Central Asia-South Asia. However, Afghanistan needs to embark on a significant rehabilitation of its transport infrastructure before it can realize its trade and transit potential. The Afghanistan Transport Sector Master Plan Update (2017–2036) indicates that total investments necessary to develop the country’s transport infrastructure would require roughly $26 billion for the 20-year period.

CAREC support to Afghanistan’s transport rehabilitation efforts includes construction and rehabilitation of major roads, particularly parts of CAREC Corridors 3, 5, and 6. A multidonor ADB-administered trust fund – the Afghanistan Infrastructure Trust Fund (AITF) – was created in 2010 to support infrastructure development in Afghanistan. CAREC has previously supported the rehabilitation of the Chan-e-Anjir-Gereshk Road and the reconstruction of the Sapary-Surkhrod and the Sharan-Angoor Ada roads. These roads, which contribute to the completion of CAREC Corridors 5 and 6, strengthen Afghanistan’s access to markets in South Asia, particularly Pakistan, which is its biggest trading partner.

The government prioritizes the completion of the national ring road (Afghanistan’s main transport artery) and connector roads to international borders, as well as the rehabilitation of the Salang Tunnel, which links the northern and southern regions of the country. The reconstruction of the Dar-i-Suf-Yakawlang national road, which will complete the North-South Corridor, is in progress. It will provide an alternative route from Mazar-e-Sharif to Kabul and is envisioned to unload traffic from the Salang Tunnel.

The ring road runs 2,200 km from Kabul to Kunduz to Mazar-e-Sharif to Herat to Kandahar and back to Kabul. CAREC is also supporting the ongoing rehabilitation of the Qaisar-Bala Murghab section (90 km) of Herat-Andkhoy road, which is the remaining unpaved section of the national ring road and is part of CAREC Corridors 3 and 6. The construction of 143 km section from Laman to Bala Murghab is in progress and will complete improvements to the ring road and is the remaining missing link that will connect western Afghanistan to key regional trade corridors.

CAREC will explore expansion of the country’s currently limited railway network to attract higher volumes of transit goods. The first railway between Afghanistan and Iran (Herat-Khaf) commenced operations in 2020. The 140 km rail track connects Afghanistan’s city of Ghoryan to Iran’s city of Khaf and provides Afghanistan access to Iran’s port of Chabahar which is part of the International North-South Transport Corridor. Once the rail line expansion to Herat is completed, the 225 km Khaf-Herat network could increase passenger and cargo transport capacity significantly. The network is part of the East-West Railway Corridor connecting Europe and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Azerbaijan

Strategically located at the crossroads of two major corridors connecting Europe and Asia on the one hand (east-west corridor), and the Russian Federation with Middle East and South Asia on the other (north-south corridor), Azerbaijan is fast emerging as an important hub of commerce and trade in the Caucasus region. To capture the surge in trade and transit traffic between Asia and Europe, the government has been upgrading the country’s road, rail, and logistics infrastructure along with assistance from ADB and other multilateral development partners.

Under the Second Road Network Development Investment Program, the 63 km four-lane section of the new Alat-Astara Road between the cities of Masalli and Shorsulu was constructed to improve the Southern Corridor and facilitate road-based bilateral trade with Iran. It was opened to traffic in 2018. Key sections of the R32 and M5/R57 roads were also rehabilitated, as well as 10 local feeder roads. The program has completed all outputs and will close in 2021.

Since railway lines connecting areas of the Black and Caspian Seas pass through its territory, Azerbaijan can also tap its railway network to capture the significant transit traffic flowing between Asia and Europe. In fact, an important chunk of Azerbaijan’s international transportation is carried out by rail. The east-west line from Baku to Beyuk Kesik (Georgia border) carries most of its oil transit cargo from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to European markets, while the north-south line (Baku to the Russian Federation border) transports most of its imports from the Russian Federation.

Within this context, the government has been implementing operational improvements and upgrading the country’s railway infrastructure to complement the country’s locational advantage. With cofinancing from Agence Francaise de Developpement, ADB is currently supporting the full modernization of the track and structures of approximately 166 km of the Sumgayit-Yalama rail line along the North-South Railway Corridor of the CAREC network under the Railway Sector Development Program. The Program also supports operational improvements and corporate restructuring of the Azerbaijan Railways Closed Joint Stock Company (ADY), which owns and operates the country’s rail and infrastructure network. As a result of management and operational reforms, ADY has improved its financial position, which has allowed it to focus more on business development activities.

To maximize its full transit potential, Azerbaijan has initiated the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project jointly with Georgia and Turkey. The railway, which connects the Baku International Sea Trade Port  with Georgia and Turkey (CAREC designated rail corridors 2 and 6), contributes to the modernization of the east-west rail corridor and complements the North-South Railway Corridor under the CAREC network. It runs through Azerbaijan (504 km), Georgia (263 km) and Turkey (79 km), and offers the shortest route between Asia and Europe. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway opened to traffic in 2017, however its freight trains are operated on a test mode.

People’s Republic of China (PRC)

The PRC has been an active member of the CAREC Program since its inception in 2001. It continues to firmly support CAREC’s goal of building stronger economic growth through improved trade linkages and regional connectivity.

CAREC has gradually scaled down assistance for physical road development in the PRC but continues to support the country’s road sector in the context of improved road asset management and road safety. In the same vein, its support for multimodal logistics and railway development in the PRC remains through the development of intermodal links and multi-modal integrated logistics facilities.

In 2013, the PRC launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a development strategy that, inter alia, links the PRC with European markets by developing transportation networks through Central and West Asia.[1] With overlapping geographies and a common vision of shared prosperity anchored in regional cooperation, ministers from the 11 CAREC member countries (MCs) signed the “Dushanbe Declaration” at the 16th CAREC ministerial conference in 2017. The Dushanbe Declaration envisions stronger ties between CAREC and the BRI and recognizes that both can capitalize on their respective strengths and work jointly toward their shared goal of supporting higher growth in the region.[2] Within these two cooperation platforms, the PRC continues to collaborate and partner with CAREC MCs in developing transportation networks to improve connectivity and bolster cross-border trade in the region.

At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, CAREC Transport launched an impact study of Covid-19 on CAREC Aviation and Tourism. At the 2020 CAREC aviation consultation, the Civil Aviation Authority of China expressed its readiness to share with other CAREC member countries its experiences and the lessons it learned in implementing the International Civil Aviation Organization recommendations to restart the aviation industry and jumpstart recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Georgia

To capitalize on its strategic location and fully unlock its trade and transit potential, the government of Georgia has been taking bold steps to upgrade its transport infrastructure.

Among the government’s key priorities is the improvement of the East-West Highway (EWH), which connects the landlocked countries of South Caucasus and Central Asia with Georgia’s Black Sea ports and Turkey. Accounting for about a fourth of Georgia’s international roads, roughly 60% of the country’s foreign trade is transported on EWH. The Khevi-Ubisa and Shorapani and Argveta subsections are being upgraded to ease bottlenecks along the Chumateleti-Argveta segment of EWH, while the construction of the Batumi Bypass road skirting the port city of Batumi to ease traffic flow along the EWH is also ongoing.

ADB is also cofinancing improvements in the North-South corridor with EBRD, which involves construction of a bypass between the towns of Kvesheti and Kobi. The 50-km secondary road extending from Dzirula to Chumateleti in Central Georgia is also being rehabilitated to provide about 30,000 people living in the municipality of Kharagauli and adjacent areas with safe and fast access to the EWH.

On road safety, Georgia will host the Secretariat of the EU Eastern Partnership Regional Project which was launched by the European Commission in February 2021. The project will establish a road safety observatory to promote road safety in the Eastern Partnership countries. The National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2025 and the Transport and Logistics Strategy for 2021-2030 and their respective Action Plan (2021-2022) have been prepared and are being reviewed for approval. In early 2021, the World Bank launched the Corridor Digitization Project “Creating a Framework for the Digitalization of the Logistics Corridor between South Caucasus and Central Asia.” Plans to develop a closed and open warehousing / logistics center in Tbilisi, in which about GEL 30 million will be invested, are also underway.

In aviation, the sector’s competitiveness has improved as a result of implemented liberal standards, with 50 airlines operating to 100 direct destinations during the winter season of 2020. However, this positive trend has been halted by the pandemic, with only around 42 airlines now operating to 75 destinations, although the number has started to pick up recently. The extension of the Kutaisi International Airport, which mostly serves the low-cost carriers in the country and is the first low-cost terminal in the region, has increased the airport’s capacity four-fold. The Batumi International Airport’s capacity has likewise been doubled with an investment of $17 million. The new facility will be able to accommodate 1.2 million passengers annually.

On maritime transport, the construction of the new multifunctional maritime terminal in Poti port is ongoing with an investment of $93 million, of which $50 million is funded by the United States Agency for International Development Finance (DFC). In railway transport, majority of the construction works on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project has been completed and freight transportation is currently carried out in a pilot mode.

Kazakhstan

The government of Kazakhstan has taken important steps to modernize the country’s transport sector within the framework of its Nurly Zhol Infrastructure Development Program 2015-2019. Under the program, ports and railway tracks have been repaired or upgraded to improve capacity; roughly 25,000 kms of roads were repaired and 3,000 kms were built and reconstructed.[3] Several regional transport corridors traverse Kazakhstan, including four of the six CAREC corridors (CAREC corridors 1, 1c, 3, and 6). As a result, 88% and 71% of republican and local roads, respectively, have been restored to satisfactory condition, while transit revenue has quadrupled. [4]

To underline its commitment to keep well-maintained and safer roads, tolling systems have also been introduced for the first time as a means to improve road maintenance and self-sustainability in the road sector. To date, there are four toll road sections in the country, and the tolling systems will be introduced to cover 11,000 kms of national highways, with a program being rolled out in 2021. With its successful implementation, the program is being extended to 2025 with even more ambitious targets to be supported with approximately USD12.6 billion in stimulus package.

In 2019, Kazakhstan introduced an open skies policy at 11 airports to ease access of foreign carriers and allow them to operate with fifth freedom rights on routes not operated by Kazakh carriers. The arrangement is valid for three years but may later on be extended.

ADB is currently preparing its assistance for the reconstruction of Kyzylorda–Zhezkazgan road, cofinancing the project with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; and for construction of a new road bypassing Saryagash and thirty six villages in the Saryagash and Keles districts of Turkestan oblast. Along similar lines, the modernization of transport infrastructure along the Aktobe–Kandyagash–Makat road is also ongoing with financial assistance from ADB and the Islamic Development Bank. This comprises a connector road that links CAREC corridors 1 and 6 to the Russian Federation and the European Union. ADB is also supporting institutional capacity improvements for the National Quality Center for Road Assets, with the support of the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction. In previous years, ADB had also provided assistance in the modernization of the Zhetybai-Zhanaozen roads in West Kazakhstan.

In the railway sector, several initiatives are being considered by Kazakhstan Temir Zholy. These include (i) a large-scale modernization and electrification program of Dostyk-Mointy railway, which is the most heavily trafficked section in the country and links the PRC to the Russian Federation and the EU along CAREC corridor 2; (ii) construction of a 115-km regional railway between Darbaza and Makhtaaral in southern Kazakhstan, connecting Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan; and (iii) modernization of existing passenger wagon rolling stock.

The Kyrgyz Republic

The Ministry of Transport and Communications has been updating its program for the road transport sector “Key Directions of the Road Sector for 2016-2025” (KDRS-2025). Some of the priority tasks planned under KDRS-2025 have been successfully completed between 2016 and 2019, while others are being fine-tuned to be carried out over the remainder of the program’s implementation period. New tasks will also be introduced in accordance with the priorities of the National Development Strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2018-2040.

The share of roads of international importance that have been restored to good condition increased from 36.3% in 2015 to 44% in 2019.  However, budget allocation for road maintenance covers only 50-55% of maintenance spending, highlighting the need for revenue-generating measures to recoup road maintenance costs (e.g., distance-based tolling, weight-distance tolls for heavy vehicles, etc.). In addition, measures to reform and develop the road sector, improve road safety, financial planning, and road management, and to encourage public-private partnerships and performance-based road maintenance (PBM) contracting remain relevant.

Since the country relies heavily on road transport, CAREC’s assistance in the transport sector focuses more closely on improving the country’s road network. Road transport accounts for about 95% and 99.7% of freight and passenger traffic, respectively. Its support prioritizes the rehabilitation of two regional CAREC road corridors that are of strategic importance to the country (Corridor 1: Bishkek–Osh road and Corridor 3: Bishkek–Torugart road).

The CAREC Program also provides institutional support in areas of road maintenance and road safety. Along these lines, PBM contracts is being piloted to encourage greater private sector participation in the road sector toward the broader goal of improving road conditions and road services. Safety improvements are also being implemented by helping the government develop a national road safety strategy that includes road safety audits, capacity development, and public awareness campaigns.

The country’s railway network comprises two disjointed lines (northern and southern lines). Currently, there are plans to create a new railway corridor connecting PRC to Uzbekistan through the Kyrgyz Republic. If this materializes, the new railway corridor offers an attractive, less circuitous route that could significantly reduce travel time and transport distance between the PRC and Uzbekistan. This will not only enable the Kyrgyz Republic to increase its transit capacity and play a more dominant role as a transport hub in the region but could possibly allow connecting the north and south of the country.

Pending construction of the KGZ railway link, the PRC-KGZ-UZB cargo transport line is now operational but only under a combined “rail-road” transport mode (as opposed to the intended full rail line). The Bishkek-Osh road is the only available route that links the country’s north and south at present. However, an alternative North-South highway bypassing border territories is currently being constructed with financial assistance from the Export Import Bank of China, the Islamic Development Bank (ISDB), and ADB.  ADB assistance supports the improvement of the Balychy–km marker 43, Kochkor–Epkin, and the Epkin–Bashkugandy sections of the North–South Alternate Corridor.

Mongolia

The government’s development plan “Sustainable Development Vision 2030” recognizes that a reliable transport and logistics network is crucial to the overall goal of achieving sustainable economic growth and social development in Mongolia. In particular, the government envisions to expand paved roads for international and local travels, construct new railroads, and create transportation and logistics centers to support the growth of local industries and integrate the economy to global markets. In addition, it also plans to expand national air transportation network and to develop airports in Aimags and large Soums. [5]

The CAREC Program supports the government’s vision by providing assistance for logistics services and transport infrastructure improvements to reduce trade costs and improve Mongolia’s connectivity with regional and international markets. CAREC previously supported the construction of a 4.347 km link road between Zamyn-Uud soum, ZULC and Zamyn-Uud Ulaanbaatar state road, as well as the construction of additional 1.2 km railway in ZULC.

The construction of paved road between Khovd and Ulaanbaishint is underway, which is part of Asian Highway 4 and CAREC Corridor 4a. As of June 2021, 163.9 km out of 189.7 km have been completed. Moreover, three bridges (0.49 km) and 14.9 km of urban roads have been rehabilitated in the towns of Khovd and Ulgii. With financial assistance from the EBRD, the 202-kilometre two-lane Ulaanbaatar-Darkhan motorway is currently being widened into four-lanes to expand the road’s throughput capacity. The existing 2-lanes of the road was earlier reconstructed with support from ADB. The motorway, which runs from the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, to Mongolia’s second largest city, Darkhan, is one of the busiest roads in the country and is located on the PRC–Mongolia–Russian Federation corridor.

CAREC assistance to Mongolia also includes building capacities in the areas of road asset management and road safety. As part of the country’s new road safety management strategy, road safety engineering features are being integrated in the Ulaanbaatar–Darkhan road expansion efforts, which includes installation of wire-rope median barriers in the heavy-traffic sections of Ulaanbaatar-Darkhan.

Mongolia’s geographic challenges, deficient physical transport assets, and poor trade facilitation together undermine its competitiveness in global markets. On this basis, the Regional Improvement of Border Services (RIBS) Project envisions to enhance the country’s trade competitiveness by removing bottlenecks and reducing trade costs by upgrading facilities and equipment at BCPs in Bichigt, bordering China in the east; and Borshoo, bordering Russia in the west. The project also includes a capacity building component to strengthen capacities of relevant border agencies.

Pakistan

CAREC supports the modernization of Pakistan’s transport infrastructure by providing assistance for the rehabilitation and construction of national highways and provincial roads, including the additional 66 km and 43 km of the carriageway along the Petaro-Sehwan road and the Ratodero-Shikarpur road, respectively, as well as the rehabilitation of the Dara Adamkhel-Peshawar road.

With cofinancing from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, ADB supported the construction of the 64 km Shorkot-Khanewal Section of the M-4 National Motorway, which forms part of the north-south transport corridor connecting the port city of Karachi to primary centers of business activity including Lahore, Faisalabad,Islamabad and Peshawar and on to Torkham on the northern border with Afghanistan. [6] The construction of a 62-km, four-lane motorway connecting Gojra and Khanewal in Punjab Province has been completed, which also forms part of the M-4 motorway. The new M-4 is expected to unload traffic along national highway N-5, which is part of the north south transport corridor. It will also connect the north of Pakistan, southern Punjab, Sindh, and the ports of Karachi and Gwadar in southern Pakistan.[7]

To increase road capacity on the Indus Highway (N-55), plans to upgrade and dualize 67 km of the highway’s Kohat-Karak section are underway, to be financed by the government’s own resources. Improvement of the Indus Highway, which runs almost the entire length of Pakistan from north to south and is a major trade route for Pakistan, is envisioned to absorb the excessive traffic build up on N-5.[8]

A proposal to dualize about 520 km of provincial highways in south Punjab from the existing two-lane to divided four-lane standards has been put forward, as part of broader efforts to increase the east-west orientation of national road transport corridors that will connect towns of southern Punjab and neighboring districts in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa across the Indus.[9]  In rail transport, construction of the 573 km Mazar-i-Sharif – Kabul – Peshawar railway, which will provide Central Asian countries access to Pakistan’s seaports of Karachi, Qasim and Gwadar, has been proposed.

Pakistan’s National Transport Policy was approved in 2018, and the accompanying Master Plan is currently under submission for the approval of the Government. Moreover, the National Freight and Logistics Policy was approved in March 2021. The Pakistan Single Window Programme (PSWP), which connects 74 departments that are engaged in the regulation and documentation of the country’s imports and exports, was also soft launched in June 2021.

CAREC is also supporting the ongoing improvements of BCP infrastructure and facilities at Torkham, Chaman, and Wagha. Torkham and Chaman handle 84% and 16% of Afghan transit trade, respectively, but are deemed as choke points for cross-border transport and trade due to inadequate customs and ICT facilities. 

Tajikistan

CAREC assistance in the country’s transport sector thus focuses mainly on road transport, which carries 90% and 70% of the passenger and cargo traffic, respectively.[10]

Sections of CAREC Corridors 3 (Dushanbe–Tursunzoda) and 6 (Ayni–Panjakent) were rehabilitated with support from ADB and EBRD, while the rehabilitation of the Dushanbe-Bokhtar section along CAREC Corridors 5 and 6 is ongoing to improve connectivity between these two economic centers. This section is one of the heavily trafficked roads in Tajikistan, carrying an average daily traffic of 10,000 vehicles.

ADB has been assisting in the improvement of the Bokhtar–Dangara and Khulbuk–Kangurt section, which link directly to CAREC Corridors 5 and 6, and Asian Highway 66. The improvement will further strengthen the transport network in the southern Tajikistan and promote economic activities with neighboring countries. In addition, with cofinancing from the OPEC Fund for International Development, ADB is currently supporting the construction of a 30-km section out of the new two-lane 75-km bypass linking Obigarm and Nurobod that is currently under construction. The new bypass will replace the existing road which will be inundated once the Rogun hydropower plant reservoir becomes operational and help sustain CAREC Corridors 2, 3, and 5.  ADB has also assisted the government in strengthening the road asset management system by including dedicated components under the abovementioned ADB-financed projects.

In railway transport, the government prioritizes the construction of (i) the Tajik-Afghan railway – Turkmenistan (Ch. Balkhi-Chaikhun-Lower Pyanchi section); and (ii) the PRC-Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran railway. There are two CAREC railway corridors currently passing through Tajikistan. These are Corridor 24 Mediterranean route to East Asia: Herat-Okina (Afghanistan) -Panchi Poyon-Karamik (Tajikistan) -Karamik (Kyrgyzstan) -Koshkar (PRC); and Corridor 5c East Asia-Middle East-South Asia Route: Port of Gwadar-Chaman (Pakistan) -Kandahar-Sherkhan Bandar (Afghanistan) -Panchi Poyon-Karamik (Tajikistan) -Karamik (Kyrgyzstan) -Kashgar {PRC).

An agreement on the construction of the main railway Jalal-Abad Balkhi-Chaikhun-Lower Pyanj (Tajikistan) – Sherkhan Bandar (Afghanistan) was signed by the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) in December 2019, while concrete measures to raise funds for the preparation of a feasibility study for the construction of the (Tajikistan) -Sherkhan Bandar-Kunduz (Afghanistan) have been taken with the involvement of 60 international financial institutions.

The Ministry of Transport has developed an investment project for the Jaloliddin Balkhi-Chaikhun-Pyanchi Poyon (Tajikistan) -Serkhon Bandar (Afghanistan) railway. The Ministry of Transport and State Unitary Enterprise (SUE) “Tajik Railways” have also held meetings with ADB, WB, and EBRD to discuss the financing and development of a feasibility study for the construction of the railway.

As a landlocked country, modernizing the country’s border procedures to facilitate international trade and transit is extremely important. CAREC provides assistance in this area under the RIBS project which supports the national single window development and upgrading of facilities at the Guliston BCP.

Turkmenistan

To strengthen the country’s position as a regional trade and transit hub, the government has embarked on large-scale projects to upgrade and modernize its road and railway infrastructure networks.

In the road sector, the government initiated the construction of the 600 km Ashgabat–Turkmenabat highway in January 2019. The six-lane modern highway, which is estimated to cost $2.3 billion and is scheduled to complete in 2023, is expected to be opened in three phases, with the Ashgabat–Tejen scheduled to open in 2021, followed by the Tejen–Mary and Mary–Turkmenabat sections. Upon completion, the highway will allow safer, faster, and more efficient transport of passengers and cargo through Turkmenistan.  By connecting to the Ashgabat–Turkmenbashi highway, the project aims to complete the modernization of the Turkmenabat–Ashgabat–Turkmenbashi highway corridor, thus allowing freight trucks direct access to the Turkmenbashi International Seaport, and freight to be carried by sea to the Caucasus and Europe. The project is part of the Lapis Lazuli multimodal transport corridor, which envisions to boost regional trade and enhance integration with other countries by connecting Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey.

In the railway sector, the government is planning to modernize its railway network, which serves more than 20 million tons of freight and 5 million passengers annually. After constructing the North–South corridor between Kazakhstan and Iran in 2014, the government restructured institutions in 2019 by establishing the joint stock company of an open type “Demiryollary,” which is responsible for railway operations, while the agency “Turkmendemiryollary” is in charge of railways regulation, as well as their infrastructure, design, research and training. Future modernization works are focused on modernization of 1,147-km railway line Turkmenabad – Mary – Ashgabat – Turkmenbashi, which transports more than 50% of freight and passengers. ADB supports this initiative by financing the feasibility study on corridor modernization and electrification. Infrastructure and institutional improvements are expected to be financed with ADB’s support in several phases under the proposed CAREC Corridors 2, 3 and 6 railways modernization project, starting from Ashgabat–Dushak section as a separate project, followed by Dushak–Mary, Mary–Turkmenabad, and Ashgabat–Turkmenbashi under Phase 1. 

By Turkmenistan’s initiative in 2016, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan were linked by a 88-km railway line connecting Atamyrat in Turkmenistan with Imamnazar border crossing point (Turkmenistan) and Aqina (Afghanistan). In January 2021, the governments of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan opened a 30-km (of which 21.5-km are the main track and 8.5 km – yard tracks) railway line between Aqina (Afghanistan) and Andkhoy, the first large city in Afghanistan; notably, financing, technical knowledge, experience and construction were provided by Turkmenistan. In 2018, railway operations were launched between Serkhetabat (Turkmenistan) and Turgundi (Afghanistan), and the governments of the two countries discuss the possibility of extending the railway line from Turgundi to Herat in Afghanistan.

This year, Turkmenistan has taken over chairmanship of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Council of Ministers,a regional initiative that fosters cooperation in several areas – including trade and transport and connectivity – toward sustainable regional development.

Uzbekistan

The government seeks to improve transport infrastructure and diversify trade transportation routes through measures that will help increase and modernize the fleet of vehicles and establish logistics centers, ensure appropriate handling and transport of goods, and develop new transport and transit corridors. 

The CAREC Program has been supporting the modernization and electrification of the country’s railway network – which transports roughly 60 million tons of freight and 15 million passengers annually – starting with the 140 km of railway between Marakand and Karshi section of CAREC Corridor 6 in 2011, followed by the 145 km of railway linking the cities of Pap, Namangan, and Andijan in the Fergana Valley in 2017,which forms part of CAREC Corridor 2. In 2019, ADB financed the improvement of Uzbekistan’s railway fleet through the procurement of 24 modern electric locomotives, and to modernize the locomotive depot in Tashkent (O’zbekiston).[11]

Within this context, there are ongoing plans to create a new railway corridor connecting the PRC to Uzbekistan through the Kyrgyz Republic, which could cut travel time and transport distance between the PRC and Uzbekistan significantly. With this new corridor, Uzbekistan and other CAREC countries can potentially attract greater trade and transit traffic from the PRC and Europe.[12]

Along similar lines, Uzbekistan has also been collaborating with its neighbors in implementing new infrastructure projects to improve cross-border trade. This includes the launch of high-speed rail links with Kazakhstan, and the construction of the Turkmenabad-Farab railway and road bridges with Turkmenistan. The latter forms part of the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman transport and transit route.[13]

Uzbekistan has also restored transport connections, such as the reopening of a cross-border rail link to Tajikistan via Ghalaba and Amuzang which has been closed since 2011.Reactivation of this rail link could lead to greater trade with Afghanistan, and potentially connect the country with the Persian Gulf via the Afghan-Iranian railway link that was launched in December 2020.[14]   Further, at the initiative of Uzbekistan, a proposal to build a 573 km railway track which will connect Tashkent with Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar through Afghanistan (Kabul) was signed by the three countries early this year.[15]

In road transport, the 240km section of the Guzar–Bukhara–Nukus–Beyneu highway in Karakalpakstan is being upgraded and reconstructed into a two-lane, cement concrete road with assistance from ADB. The project, which includes access roads linking villages to the highway, will also pilot an intelligent transport system along a 100km section of the high-traffic Tashkent–Namangan road. The system envisions to improve road safety and traffic congestion management by monitoring and providing real-time traffic and road condition information.[16]


[1] Reid Standish, 2019. China’s Belt and Road Initiative Is Running Into Problems – The Atlantic. 01 October.

[2] Asian Development Bank. News Release. 3 May 2018. ADB Seminar Furthers Potential of Broader CAREC-BRI Collaboration | Asian Development Bank.

[3] Andrey Dovgolenko, 2021. Kazakhstan Has Potential to Become Important Transport Route Along New Silk Road – The Astana Times. 12 April.

[4] Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2019. Implementation of new Nurly Zhol State Program for 2020-2025 to create more than 550 thousand jobs – Official Information Source of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan. 22 October.

[5] The Green Knowledge Partnership. Mongolia Sustainable Development Vision 2030 | Green Growth Knowledge Platform.

[6] Asian Development Bank. News Release. 10 June 2016. ADB Approves First Cofinancing with AIIB for a Pakistan Road Project | Asian Development Bank

[7] Asian Development Bank. Project Data Sheet. 48402-001: National Motorway M-4 Gojra–Shorkot Section Project | Asian Development Bank (adb.org) (accessed 20 September 2021)

[8] National Highway Authority of Pakistan, 2018. Evaluation-Report-For-Design-Revie-and-Construction-Supervision-for-Duzlization-and-Improvement-of-Karak-to-Kohat-Section-of-Indus-Highway-N-55-67-Km.pdf (nha.gov.pk). 28 September.

[9] Asian Development Bank. Project Data Sheet. 54149-001: Punjab Sustainable Highway Development Project | Asian Development Bank (adb.org) (accessed 20 September 2021)

[10] Asian Development Bank. 2016. Tajikistan: Country Partnership Strategy (2016-2020) (adb.org)

[11] Asian Development Bank. News Release. 21 May 2019. ADB to Help Modernize Uzbekistan’s Railway Fleet, Improve Services | Asian Development Bank

[12] Farrukh Juraev, 2021. Uzbekistan’s key priorities for the comprehensive development of transport corridors in Central Asia | New Europe. 28 April.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Railway Gazette International, 2018. Uzbekistan – Tajikistan rail link reopens | News | Railway Gazette International. 12 March.

[15] The Tashkent Times, 2021. Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed roadmap for Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway project – Tashkent Times. 08 February.

[16] Asian Development Bank. News Release. 01 September 2020. ADB Approves $274 Million Loan to Upgrade Roads Vital to Uzbekistan’s Regional Connectivity | Asian Development Bank