Uzbekistan completes railway line bypassing Tajikistan

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TASHKENT (TCA) — Uzbek media report that Uzbekistan has completed the construction of the Angren-Pap electrified railway line that connects three provinces located in the Uzbek part of the Fergana Valley (Andijan, Namangan, and Fergana oblasts) to Uzbekistan’s mainland, bypassing neighboring Tajikistan.     

In the past, rail communication between Uzbekistan’s part of the Fergana Valley and the capital Tashkent was conducted through Tajikistan’s Sughd province.

The Angren-Pap line is 123 kilometers long and includes 2,100 meters of new bridges and two tunnels, one of which is 19.1 kilometers long.

The project cost $1.9 billion. It was financed with loans from international financial organizations of almost $1 billion and by the Fund for Reconstruction and Development of Uzbekistan. Among foreign donors, the World Bank loaned $195 million and China Eximbank $350 million.   

The new railway line clearly benefits Uzbekistan. But conversely, it puts Tajikistan in a horrible situation, RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier wrote in his Qishloq Ovozi blog. For one thing, Angren-Pap removes one of the few aspects of Uzbek-Tajik relations that really required some level of cooperation between the two governments since Uzbekistan needed the old line through Tajikistan to ship goods. Without this small bargaining chip, Dushanbe has no leverage to convince Tashkent to allow trains to reach Tajikistan, and all trains to or from Tajikistan must pass through Uzbekistan’s territory.

That’s already been a problem, for instance when Tajikistan was having construction material shipped by rail for use in building hydropower plants (HPPs). Tashkent objects to Tajikistan building HPPs on rivers that flow into Uzbekistan. Uzbek customs officials stopped and searched trains bound for Tajikistan; those with construction materials were turned back, Pannier wrote.

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service spoke with Tolibboy Ashurov, a representative of Tajikistan’s Sughd region, who said that in the past, “up to 4 million tons [of cargo] a year” of Uzbek freight passed through the Sughd region. “The transit of Uzbek goods brought some $28 million annually to Tajikistan’s state coffers, but in recent years the volume of transit has dropped sharply,” he added.

Sergey Kwan

TCA