Kyrgyzstan gives another optimistic update on CKU railway project but financing remains the key unanswered question

By bne IntelliNews March 24, 2024

Kyrgyzstan continues to issue optimistic statements about the prospects for starting the construction of the long-desired China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railway, but there are still no announcements of how the multi-billion-dollar project—which would have to negotiate great tracts of mountainous Kyrgyz territory with scores of bridges and tunnels—could be financed.

Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Japarov on March 20 confirmed following a meeting with the deputy general director of the China State Railway Group, Wang Tunjun, that the participating countries in the project plan to establish a joint project company for the delivery of the railway. It would, he said, likely operate according to a build-operate-transfer (BOT) model.

Japarov said: “Kyrgyzstan is very determined and intends to build the mainline in the next few years.”

The Chinese-Kyrgyz-Uzbek entity would be private-sector and would be responsible for the design, operation and management of the railway, according to Kyrgyz officials. After some time, the railway would transfer to the ownership of the three countries.

Two years ago there were relatively strong hopes that Beijing would provide financing for the CKU project, but with China having fallen into greter economic difficulties since then those hopes have faded.

Kyrgyzstan has previously stated it was advancing $500mn to pay for required project fieldwork ahead of construction.

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