Official claims China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway construction start will be this year, but financing remains in doubt

By Muzaffar Ismailov in Tashkent January 8, 2024

The construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railway will be launched at some point this year, according to the deputy head of the Kyrgyzstan national investment agency, but there is still no word on how the required financing will be secured for the mega infrastructure project that takes a route through challenging mountainous territory and would require 50 tunnels and 90 bridges.

Economist.kg reported Zhalyn Zheenaliev’s statement on the construction launch given at a press conference in Bishkek. He also talked about Kyrgyzstan raising investment financing of $7-9bn by 2026 for various infrastructure projects.

In terms of the CKU, Kyrgyzstan remains short of a few billion dollars for the railway that would need to be laid across its territory. However, Kyrgyz officials have denied speculation that China, facing challenging economic times, has shelved the project.

Kyrgyzstan’s investment agency also plans to launch a modernisation of Manas international airport in the near future, as well as the construction of ring road in Uzgen and the building of a solar plant with a capacity of 1.5 GW.

Preparations for the construction of the CKU railway started in 2022, following more than two decades of speculation about when and if the project would ever be rolled out. The three countries agreed on the route and agreed to prepare a feasibility study. The roadmap for the creation of a railway running from Kashgar in China to the Uzbek border was approved in May last year.

The CKU would traverse 454 kilometres (282 miles), with 280 km of that in Kyrgyzstan and roughly 100 km in Uzbekistan.

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