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FRIDAY, February 27, 2015

Central Asia

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Uzbekistan’s high-speed rail plans face logistics challenges

Uzbekistan's plans for high-speed rail could be slowed by need for additional modernization

Friday, October 22, 2010 - Uzbekistan’s bold plan to launch Central Asia’s first high-speed railway in September 2011 is on track but may face logistics challenges, according to a report published Friday by the UzReport business news agency.

Uzbekistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Elyor Ganiev recently talked up the new national project to run 150-mile-per-hour trains between the capital city of Tashkent and Samarkand city at the country’s International Tourism Fair.

State-owned Uzbekiston Temir Yullari (Uzbekistan Railways) will buy two high-speed AVE-250 trains from Spanish company Patentes Talgo for $53 million to run the route.

The locomotives will be delivered in March or April next year.

The cost will include Spanish assistance to organize the train service as well as training the drivers in Spain.

The railway infrastructure on the current Tashkent-Samarkand line will be raised to international standards for around $70 million, while the route will be extended to Bukhara and Khiva cities.

"To run high-speed trains, it is not necessary to conduct large-scale, complex and very expensive work on the modernization of the infrastructure," UzReport.com quoted Achilboy Romatov, the Uzbekiston Temir Yullari chairman, as saying.

Around 3 million people, or 11 percent of the population, live in the capital city and Samarkand in central Uzbekistan.

High-speed rail transport between the country’s two main business centers that together produce nearly one-third of the country’s GDP will make another $10 million, the news agency reported.

One analyst noted that the 220-mile distance between Tashkent and Samarkand is within the most-effective range of 180-500 miles for such high-speed trains.

"At these distances rail transport is in more favorable competitive conditions compared with the aviation industry," UzReport.com cited the analyst Anvar Jumayev.

But an analyst at Central Asia Investments pointed out that rail network managers will face challenges to coordinate schedules and timetables between the two high-speed trains and the slow freight trains that roll along at less than 30 mph and create congestion at key hubs in the system.

"The railway in the Khavast rail center is overloaded, the speed of trains in this rail section reduces to only five kilometers (3 miles) per hour, and the transfer of freight traffic on a parallel branch line does not solve the problem. This railway line will not be able to handle the current amount of traffic without appropriate modernization," said the analyst Ilkhat Tushev.

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