2021-2022 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.
Azerbaijan is 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). To maximize the country’s locational advantage, the government has been upgrading the country’s road, rail, and logistics infrastructure with assistance from the CAREC Program.
On road transport, the rehabilitation and construction of Road Ganja-Gazakh-Georgian state border (М-2, Е-60, АН-5) is ongoing. The upgrading of the M2 road from a 2-lane to 4-lane road nears completion, which includes the construction of a new 4-lane road for bypassing villages and towns.
An important share 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. To maximize the country’s transit potential, the government has been implementing operational improvements and upgrading the country’s railway infrastructure.
With support from ADB and the French development agency AFD, Azerbaijan is modernizing its 167-km railway line to its Russian borders. The rehabilitation of mainline rail-track from Sumgayit to Yalama along the North-South Railway Corridor of the CAREC network, including civil structures and level crossings, is ongoing. To further improve rail freight traffic and logistics, the government is also supporting the reconstruction of the Alat-Astara railway line under the Azerbaijan Railway and Logistics Modernization Program, with cofinancing from the World Bank. The Alat-Astara railway line is part of the North-South international transport corridor.
The government has also been building the Zangazur corridor, which is envisioned to complement the East-West and North-South transport links and is expected to help increase the transit of goods between Turkey and Central Asia through Azerbaijan. Along these lines, the government has also been restoring approximately 110-km of the Horadiz-Aghband railway line as part of the Zangazur corridor.
The modernization and upgrading of the power supply and signaling systems on the Baku-Boyuk Kesik section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) international railway is in progress. 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 offers the shortest route between Asia and Europe.
As part of the government’s digitalization reforms, all railway stations in the territory of Azerbaijan are now equipped with new and modern information and telecommunication (ICT) equipment. Payments for the purchase of tickets for passenger trains sold through digital channels, both for traveling abroad and within the country, are now collected through the CIB payment system. Payments are then transferred to the settlement account of the ADY (Azerbaijan Railways), which owns and operates the country’s rail and infrastructure network.
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.
The government has also been taking measures to continuously improve the country’s transportation network, and enhance connectivity and cross-border trade. Within this context, in 2019, all of the General Administration of Customs of China’s (GACC) checkpoints were opened to international road transport under TIR to promote cross-border road transport. As well as full TIR digitalization and multimodal TIR pilots, PRC has also agreed to establish fast-track lanes at major customs points in the country. TIR transport from PRC to Europe was launched in 2018.
In February 2021, PRC released its 2021-2035 transport plan – the National Transport Planning Outline 2021-2035 – which describes the country’s targets to reach about 200,000 km of railways, 460,000 km of highways and 25,000 km of high-grade waterways by 2035 – including 27 major coastal ports, 36 major inland ports – as well as about 400 civilian airports and 80 postal express-delivery hubs. It also includes plans to extend the country’s high-speed network and conventional lines to 70,000 kms and 130,000 kms by 2035, respectively.
Among other things, PRC also plans to develop more multi-modal hubs and create seamless logistics connections for greater integration of rail transport with other transport modes. Construction of new land-sea corridors, increased interconnection of the country’s rail infrastructure with those of neighboring countries, as well as exploring more international logistics and trade channels are also included under the Plan.
In September 2022, PRC, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan signed an agreement signifying their cooperation in the preparation of a feasibility study for the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railroad.
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. With support from the ADB, the Khevi-Ubisa and Shorapani and Argveta subsections, which are located along the Rikoti Pass, are being upgraded to ease bottlenecks along the Chumateleti-Argveta segment of EWH. Construction of 96 bridges and 53 tunnels, which is scheduled for completion by 2024, is expected to help cut travel time between Tbilisi and Batumi by half. Meanwhile, the construction of the 14.3-km Batumi Bypass road skirting the port city of Batumi to ease traffic flow along the EWH is also ongoing, while construction of the Poti Bridge and access roads and the Bakurtsikhe-Tsnori bypass road, which includes building six bridges and a two-lane 16.6 km road, has commenced earlier this year.
ADB is also cofinancing improvements in the North-South corridor with EBRD, which includes construction of a 9-km tunnel (the longest in the country) and a 23-km bypass between the towns of Kvesheti and Kobi which will provide an alternative and faster route for freight trucks. 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.
The construction of the 15.5 km long Gurjaani bypass road, which was financed by the World Bank, was completed and opened to traffic last year. Earlier this year, the World Bank has approved the Kakheti Connectivity Improvement Project (KCIP), which will finance the construction of a 17-km four-lane highway section between Sagarejo and Badiauri. This will link Kakheti to Tbilisi and the rest of the country through the Tbilisi-Bakurtsikhe-Lagodekhi highway corridor. Meanwhile, the Government of Georgia will support the construction of the first three sections of the corridor from Tbilisi to Sagarejo.
In rail transport, an ongoing regional technical assistance (TA 6861: Support to Improve Cross-Border Railway Services between Armenia and Georgia) assesses various options to shorten the travel time by rail between Yerevan and Tbilisi. On the whole, the TA assesses the economic potential of the Tbilisi-Yerevan rail corridor, and will identify priority investments and organizational requirements to improve freight and passenger transport performance on the rail corridor.
In aviation, 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. It is now able to serve 2.5 million passengers. A cargo terminal of the airport is also being developed. 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).
This year, ADB has allocated US$50 million to the US$500 million railway green bond issued by the Georgian Railway JSC to help modernize the Azerbaijan-Georgia rail network. The project is expected to help reduce average freight traffic time between the border of Azerbaijan and Batumi Port by 4 hours and increase annual freight capacity from 27 million tons in 2020 to 48 million tons by 2024. An ADB technical assistance project is also supporting the development of an economic corridor framework for the South Caucasus to assess the economic benefits and trade and tourism opportunities from reopening transport gateways between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
Roughly 25,000 kms of roads were repaired and 3,000 kms were built and reconstructed under the government’s Nurly Zhol Infrastructure Development Program 2015-2019. The “Western Europe – Western China” international transit corridor was reconstructed, while sections of the republican roads “Shymkent–Tashkent”, “Astana – Temirtau”, “Almaty – Kapshagai”, “Kokshetau – Petropavlovsk”, “Beineu – Aktau”, “Bypass of the Kordai pass”, “Uralsk – Kamenka” were rebuilt.
Tolling systems have also been introduced for the first time as a means to improve road maintenance and self-sustainability in the road sector. As of August 2022, there are twelve toll road sections in the country, with a combined length of 2,335 kilometers, including 8 newly tolled roads in 2022. In 2020, the four toll road sections that were already operational accommodated about 10.7 million vehicles and collected about $14 million in toll revenues in 2020.
With its successful implementation, the program is being extended to 2025 with ambitious targets to build and reconstruct 10,000 kilometers of republican roads; construction of 4,000 kilometers of republican roads is already ongoing.
Along these lines, the modernization of transport infrastructure along the Aktobe–Kandyagash–Makat road is ongoing with financial assistance from ADB. ADB is also currently preparing the reconstruction of Kyzylorda–Zhezkazgan road, cofinancing the project with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the construction of a new road bypassing Saryagash and thirty six villages in the Saryagash and Keles districts of Turkestan oblast, and preparing a small-scale assistance facility aiming to improve performance-based road maintenance, enhance road safety, and support the transformation of select roads as “smart roads”.
Meanwhile, the Big Almaty Ring Road (BAKAD) Project, reached a financial close in August 2020 at a cost of about $585 million. The project will develop a bypass road comprising a 57-km 6-lane section and a 9-km 4-lane section. By redirecting a large part of transit traffic flows from the streets of Almaty, it is expected to improve connectivity and road safety, reduce congestion, and cut passenger and freight travel times, as well as transportation costs.It forms part of the Western Europe – Western China transcontinental highway. The Bakad Road Concession is the first road sector project in the country to be financed under a PPP scheme.
In light of the current geopolitical environment that has disrupted trade through the North Corridor, Kazakhstan is reorienting its trade and transit routes to avoid crossing the borders of the Russian Federation. This includes the Trans-Caspian corridor (Middle Corridor) which will carry transit flows from PRC and Central Asia through the Caucasus and across the Black Sea to Europe without passing through the Russian borders. A joint venture is being explored between Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey within the framework of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR). This reduces shipping time to 12 days compared to maritime freight transport between PRC and Turkey which takes a month.
Most of transit freight continues to come from the People’s Republic of China through Khorgos and Dostyk. Kazakhstan Temir Zholly is planning to double track and electrify the Dostyk–Mointy section to support the continuous growth in transit traffic. Apart from the Trans-Caspian Sea route, another alternative route that Kazakhstan is exploring is the North-South railway line which links Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran. It offers the shortest route between East Asia and the Persian Gulf.
The Kyrgyz Republic
The Kyrgyz Republic relies heavily on road transport, which accounts for about 95% and 99.7% of freight and passenger traffic, respectively. Within this context, the Ministry of Transport and Communications has been updating its program for the road transport sector “Key Directions of the Road Sector for 2016-2030” (KDRS-2030). Some of the priority tasks planned under KDRS-2030 have been successfully completed between 2016 and 2022, while others are being fine-tuned to be carried out over the remainder of the program’s implementation period. New tasks will be introduced in accordance with the priorities of the National Development Strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2018-2040, but measures to reform and develop the road sector, improve road asset management, road safety, financial planning and management, and to encourage public-private partnerships and performance-based road maintenance (PBM) contracting remain relevant.
CAREC’s assistance in the transport sector focuses more closely on improving the country’s road network. Its support prioritizes the rehabilitation of two regional CAREC road corridors that are of strategic importance to the country (Corridor 3: Bishkek–Osh road and Corridor 1: 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 finalize a national road safety strategy and action plan that includes road safety audits, capacity development, and public awareness campaigns.
With assistance from the World Bank, rehabilitation of existing road links connecting Issyk-Kul with Kazakhstan’s Almaty region, which is envisioned to improve travel conditions between Almaty and Karakol, Issyk-Kul, help promote tourism and enhance market connectivity, is ongoing.
In rail transport, the country’s railway network comprises two disjointed lines (northern and southern lines). There are plans to create a new railway corridor connecting PRC to Uzbekistan through the Kyrgyz Republic. Along these lines, in September 2022, the Kyrgyz Republic, PRC, and Uzbekistan signed an agreement which signifies their cooperation in the preparation of a feasibility study for the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railroad. The feasibility study is expected to be completed by June 2023.
Currently, the PRC-KGZ-UZB cargo transport line is already 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 alternate 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 Saudi Fund for Development, and ADB. ADB supports the improvement of the Balychy–km marker 43, Kochkor–Epkin, and the Epkin–Bashkugandy sections of the North–South Alternate Corridor.
Under its Vision 2050 (the long term development policy), General Guidelines for Mongolia’s Development until 2025 (the mid term development policy), and the Government Action Program and plan for 2020-2024 (short term development policy), 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 (districts within aimags) under the Mongolia Sustainable Development Vision 2030.
On road transport, 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. Currently, the CAREC program is supporting the Western Regional Road Corridor Investment Program, which will construct 189.7-km of paved roads between Khovd and Ulaanbaishint, as well as rehabilitate 14.9 kilometers of urban roads in the towns of Khovd and Ulgii.
The construction of paved road between Khovd and Ulaanbaishint is also underway, which is part of Asian Highway 4 and CAREC Corridor 4a. As of September 2022, 163.9 km out of 189.7 km have been completed. Three bridges (0.49 km) and 14.9 km of urban roads have also been rehabilitated in the towns of Khovd and Ulgii.
With financial assistance from the EBRD, the 202-km 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 is being rehabilitated 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.
With the commissioning of the 67-km Tosontsengel-Uliastai road in June this year, the government’s Millennium Road project, which comprises more than 7000 kms of paved roads, has already been completed. All 21 aimags (provinces) of Mongolia are now connected by paved roads to the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
On rail transport, three rail lines are expected to be completed this year, including the 416.1-km Tavantolgoi-Zuunbayan’s, 233.6-km Tavantolgoi-Gashuunsukhait, and the 226-km Zuunbayan-Khangi rail lines, which are expected to transport 15, 30, and 21 million tonnes of freight, respectively. The government is also pushing for the construction of Bogdkhan-Railway Bypass (144.9 km), Choibalsan-Khuut and Khuut-Bichigt (totals 426.6-kms) and the 1,255-km Artssuuri-Shiveekhuren-Nariinsukhait rail lines.
On air transport, the new Chinggis Khaan International Airport, which has capacity to hold 24 aircrafts and a cargo terminal with a capacity of 11,900 tons of cargo per year, opened in July 2021. With its 3-story, 37,000 sqm passenger terminal, the new airport can accommodate roughly 3 million passengers a year.
Meanwhile, facilities and equipment at BCPs in Bichigt, bordering China in the southeast; and Borshoo, bordering Russia in the northwest, are being upgraded under the Regional Improvement of Border Services (RIBS) Project, which aims to help reduce trade costs and remove bottlenecks to enhance the country’s trade competitiveness. The project also includes a capacity building component to strengthen capacities of relevant border agencies.
The CAREC Program is supporting the improvement of 870 km of Indus Highway (N-55) under the CAREC Development Investment Program. Ongoing projects under the Program include construction of the additional 66 km and 43 km of the carriageway along the Petaro-Sehwan road and the Ratodero-Shikarpur road, respectively, as well as rehabilitation of the 34 km of Dara Adamkhel-Peshawar road.
Meanwhile, the 222-kilometer Shikarpur–Rajanpur section of the National Highway 55 (N55) will be upgraded from two lanes into a four-lane carriageway with support from ADB. N55 is part of CAREC Corridor 5 connecting the ports of Karachi and Gwardar in southern Pakistan with economic centers to the north. The project will help reduce congestion and improve travel time along the corridor. Developed with assistance from the USAID, a five-year training program will also be provided to help strengthen the capacity of the National Highway Authority in the operation, maintenance, and design of road projects, as well as in addressing gender concerns.
N55 runs almost the entire length of Pakistan from north to south and is a major trade route for Pakistan. To further increase its road capacity, the 331-kilometer Rajanpur-Dera Ismail Khan section of N55 is planned to be upgraded to a four-lane carriageway.
A proposal to dualize about 535 km of provincial highways in south Punjab from the existing two-lane to divided four-lane standards has also 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.
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, is under consideration.
In January this year, the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) freight train services resumed after roughly a decade of suspended operations. The ITI railway, which will provide Pakistan greater access to European markets, cuts freight transport between Pakistan and Turkey to 13 days compared to 35 days by sea transport.
On improving freight transportation and logistics, DFID and ADB helped in the preparation of the Logistics and Freight Policy, which has already been approved by the Cabinet. The policy envisages to enhance domestic and international supply chains through seamless integration of logistics via road, rail, marine, inland waterways, and aviation. Pakistan has also acceded to the International CMR Convention to facilitate transportation of goods, and has likewise operationalized the TIR Transit System under the TIR Convention.
Meanwhile, the CAREC Program is supporting 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.
On road safety, the Ministry of Communication has launched the National Road Safety Strategy 2018-2030 based on the five pillars of the Global Plan of the United Nations Decade of Action. A results-oriented National Road Safety Action Plan (2020-2024) has also been prepared, while the Road Safety Act has been drafted and will be submitted to the National Assembly next year for approval. Road Safety Audit for complete National Highways and Motorways network has been completed which is used as input to improve safety star rating through integrally financed Annual Maintenance Plans.
Roughly one fourth of the country’s road network under the MOT’s jurisdiction are international roads (3,348 km out of 14,339 km total, or 23%). Segments of this road network connect to key corridors traversing Tajikistan, including CAREC corridors 2, 3, 5, and 6 and Asian Highways 7, 65, and 66. Within this context, the CAREC Program is supporting the government in upgrading the country’s road networks along these transport corridors.
With support from the CAREC Program, 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 about 10,000 vehicles.
Improvement of the Dangara to Okmazor (28.7 km) and Khulbuk–Kangurt (59.5 km) road sections under the Road Network Sustainability Project is also in progress. These road sections, which link directly to CAREC Corridors 5 and 6, and Asian Highway 66, support 4,200 vehicles and 1,300 vehicles of daily traffic, respectively. The improvement will further strengthen the transport network in the southern Tajikistan and promote economic activities with neighboring countries.
Along these lines, ADB is preparing an additional financing of $43.2 million for the Road Network Sustainability Project. Following a reprogramming of project funds to accommodate the government’s post-covid recovery priorities, rehabilitation of the Dangara–Bokhtar road section was reduced by 40 km, with only the Dangara–Okmazor section (28.7 km) currently being financed as a result. The additional financing will support the rehabilitation of the Okmazor–Bokhtar section (40km) to complete the Dangara–Bokhtar road rehabilitation.
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. The Obigarm–Nurobod road, which connects Dushanbe to the country’s northeast region and the Kyrgyz Republic, carries 2000 vehicles daily. ADB is also assisting the government in strengthening the road asset management system by including dedicated components under the abovementioned ADB-financed projects.
With support from the World Bank, the government is enhancing the resilience of its key road infrastructure against natural hazards. Priority road sections that were identified under the World Bank Tajikistan Preparedness and Resilience to Disasters Project include two bridges on the Dushanbe – Rudaki road which links Dushanbe to the south of the country; high-risk road sections between Labidjar and Karamik in the corridor linking Dushanbe with the Kyrgyz Republic through the Rasht Valley; and roads and bridges in the Khatlon region that were damaged by floods and mudflows caused by torrential rains in 2021. The project also aims to help strengthen the country’s capacity in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation.
As a landlocked country, modernizing the country’s border procedures to facilitate international trade and transit is extremely important. CAREC has provided assistance in this area under the RIBS project which supported the national single window development and upgrading of facilities at the Guliston BCP. Currently, ADB is providing advisory support in updating the government’s transport sector development program (National Target Development Program for the Transport Sector of the Republic of Tajikistan up to 2025) and in the development of the transport sector capacity development program. The latter is expected to be a guiding document for the Ministry of Transport in updating the national transport sector development program in the future. Further, ADB is extending assistance in the development of decarbonization pathways in the transport sector.
The Government of Turkmenistan has been embarking on large-scale projects to upgrade and modernize its road and railway infrastructure networks and thus strengthen the country’s position as a regional trade and transit hub.
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. Construction of the 203-km Ashgabat–Tejen has been completed and opened in October 2021. The second section – Tejen–Mary – started construction in February 2022 and is scheduled to complete this year. The third section – Mary–Turkmenabat – is set to be commissioned in 2023.
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 links Afghanistan to Turkey via Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan), crosses the Caspian Sea, and connects Baku (Azerbaijan) to Tbilisi and the Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti (Georgia). In February 2021, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan signed a trilateral roadmap to maximize opportunities for increased economic integration by strengthening cooperation in various areas, including coordinated customs and border systems to facilitate the seamless movement of goods along the Lapis Lazuli corridor.
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. Future modernization works are focused on modernization of 1,147-km railway line Turkmenabat – 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 the 170-km Ashgabat–Dushak section in Phase 1, followed by Dushak–Mary, Mary–Turkmenabat, and Ashgabat–Turkmenbashi as subsequent phases.
In November 2021, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Turkmenistan signed a MoU on the implementation of the Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran (KTI) Railway Freight Corridor, which aims to help promote seamless transport connectivity through enhanced railroad cooperation among the three countries. The IsDB, which contributed US$370 million to the construction of the KTI corridor, is conducting a study on the possible commercialization of the KTI corridor in collaboration with the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and UNESCAP. ADB had contributed $125 million for the KTI corridor.
Meanwhile, the 30-kilometer railway section between the town of Aqina, on the Afghan border with Turkmenistan, and the northern Afghan town of Andkhoy has been completed and was inaugurated in January 2021. The Aqina-Andkhoy rail line connected with Turkmenistan’s railway system is part of the Asian International Railway Transport Corridor and is envisioned to become a key link of the Lapis-Lazuli corridor.
In maritime transport, the government – with cofinancing from the IsDB and the OPEC Fund for International Development – will construct three vessels at the Balkan Shipyard at the International Sea Port of Turkmenbashi, which is the largest and main passenger and cargo port in the country. As well as increasing vessel capacity, the Marine Merchant Fleet Project aims to improve the efficiency of maritime transport operations, enhance competitiveness, and develop the country’s shipbuilding potential. Upon completion, the project is expected to increase annual freight transport capacity and the number of passengers by one million tons and 20,000 passengers, respectively. Along these lines, the Turkmenbashi International Sea Port has also developed new tariffs, which exempt storage services for up to 30 calendar days in the ports of general use and urgent cargo.
Uzbekistan has been collaborating with its neighbors in implementing new infrastructure projects to improve cross-border trade, including the launch of high-speed rail links with Kazakhstan, and the construction of the Turkmenabat-Farap railway and road bridges with Turkmenistan. The latter forms part of the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman transport and transit route.
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 in 2021. Moreover, 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. A memorandum of understanding was signed in September 2022 to jointly prepare a feasibility for the project. With this new corridor, Uzbekistan and other CAREC countries can potentially attract greater trade and transit traffic from the PRC and Europe.
The country’s railway network transports roughly 60 million tons of freight and 15 million passengers annually. Within this context, the CAREC Program has been supporting the government in the modernization and electrification of the country’s railway networks, including electrification of 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 – as well as upgrades to Uzbekistan’s eastern rail network comprising two main lines: one linking major cities in the Fergana Valley, and another which runs from Papto Angren and Tashkent via the Kamchik Pass.
CAREC assistance for the electrification of 465 kilometers of railway line linking Bukhara, Miskin, Urgench, and Khiva is also ongoing. Cofinanced by ADB and AIIB, the project is expected to reduce travel time between Bukhara and Khiva to about three hours, and allow travel time from Tashkent to Khiva to take only seven hours. Annual passenger rail ridership and rail freight on this section are also expected to grow to one million passengers (from 280, 000 passengers this year) and 11.8 million tons by 2026, respectively.
In road transport, the 240km section of the Guzar–Bukhara–Nukus–Beyneu (A380) highway in Karakalpakstan is being upgraded and reconstructed into a two-lane, cement concrete road with assistance from ADB. The A380 highway is part of CAREC Corridor 2, which links Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. 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. In February 2022, the ADB approved a $273.85 million loan to complete the reconstruction of about 87 kilometers of the A380 highway between Bukhara and Gazli, as well as upgrade 106.4 kilometers of national road between Derbent and Denau in Surkhandarya region, linking CAREC Corridors 3b and 6b (Dhushanbe-TermezGwadar/Karachi Sea Port).Rehabilitation of 240 kilometers of highway between Kungrad in northwest Uzbekistan and Daut-Ata in Kazakhstan, which is expected to increase average daily traffic by 30% and cut travel time by 15%, is also in progress.
With support from the AIIB, 78km section of the international road A380 is being rehabilitated under Phase I of the Bukhara Road Network Improvement Project, while rehabilitation and maintenance of international road M37 sections in the Bukhara region, along with regional and local road networks in the Republic of Karakalpakstan and Khorezm regions will be undertaken during the next phase.
The CAREC Program is also providing advisory support in the preparation of a development strategy and action plan for the country’s road sector, as well as guidance in the implementation of road sector governance reforms.
In aviation, Uzbekistan Airports JSC has reduced tariffs for foreign carriers to enhance competitiveness of the country’s airports and attract more foreign airlines, as well as encourage tourism. In October 2021, rates for ground handling of regular flights operated by foreign carriers were reduced by 15% on average, following the first round of fees reduction during the year when rates were reduced by an average of 27% in March 2021.
Meanwhile, the Samarkand International Airport opened a new terminal in March 2022. The new terminal, which allows the number of regular flights to increase from 40 to 120 per week, can serve up to 800-1000 passengers per hour. With its improved airport capacity, Research firm Lufthansa Consulting estimates a potential increase in annual passenger traffic from 480,000 to two million passengers. Whereas flights from the Samarkand Airport were operated to only five destinations in 2019, the airport targets to increase its network to over 30 destinations by 2030. Reconstruction of Terminal 2 of the Tashkent International Airport is also ongoing and is scheduled to be completed by 2023. The ongoing airport expansion is expected to double passenger capacity from 1200 to 2400 passengers per hour.
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