Brief Blueprint for the Construction of the Trans-Kyrgyzstan Chuy-Fergana railway line

Preamble

The issue of the construction of a railway line stretching from China to Uzbekistan via Kyrgyzstan has not yet been solved since the mid-1990s. Perhaps, the lack of positive dynamics on this project has its own advantages, because the creation of a Central Asian railway ring line by the construction of the trans-Kyrgyzstan Chuy-Fergana longitudinal has become very topical now.

Prerequisites

  1. The main source of a host of political, economic, social and ethnocultural problems in modern Kyrgyzstan is the physical separation between the country’s northern and southern parts. Apart from limited road and air links between the two parts of the country there is practically no connection, except for a railway link via the Tajik and Uzbek parts of the Fergana valley to southern Kyrgyzstan (heavily used in Soviet times and rarely now). There is the need to link the North and the South exactly as key economic hubs, but not as transit points that are convenient for other countries.
  2. This road may be managed as public-private partnership by an international consortium, including Kazakh and Russian railway operators. European, Asian and global investors may wish to get involved in this on a long-term basis, with the domination of Customs Union/Single Economic Space countries in strategic issues and operations management preserved.
  3. Access to the construction and long-term operation of the North-South Kyrgyzstan corridor and the transfer of all assets of the Kyrgyz Temir Zholu railway company to the management of the consortium will, in essence, become Kyrgyzstan’s contribution to its membership of the Customs Union/Single Economic Space and will ensure Kyrgyzstan’s switch to a model of intensive agrarian-raw materials development with elements of industrial development from the existing agrarian-commerce model, with the consequent achievement of economic development levels of Single Economic Space member states.
  4. First of all, the existing Chinese proposals to build a railway line through Kyrgyzstan should be rejected, because they are largely based on the principles of transit or are directly linked to exporting raw materials without processing (local value added) straight to China (usually, to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region). Moreover, they do not solve the problem of disconnection between the country’s North and South at all, which is why they may serve as a factor of destabilization in the future.
  5. This line will practically link the Kazakh railway network in the Chuy valley with the Uzbek one in the Fergana valley. Bearing in mind the construction of the new Kazakh-Chinese Zhetigen-Khorgos-Yining railway line, we can say that the trans-Kyrgyzstan line will ensure the stability of freight flow to/from the Fergana valley, offering possibilities, jointly or separately, to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to ensure their access to China along a route which is alternative to the Saryagash junction (the main railway crossing between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan). In terms of advantages, equal possibilities of transiting through the single Kyrgyz-Kazakh line will sharply reduce confrontation between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and will potentially solve a conflict concerning transit in the Fergana valley between the Uzbek and Tajik railway companies. For Kazakhstan the trans-Kyrgyzstan line will serve as an extension of the line from Yining straight to the Fergana valley and this will automatically kill two birds: ease Kazakhstan’s concerns over alternative corridors from China to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (affecting the payback period of the Khorgos-Zhetigen line) and offer Kazakhstan control over Kyrgyzstan’s Chuy, Issyk-Kul, Naryn and southern regions (Kazakhstan’s security, in general, the removal of a hotspot of instability in the long run and economic interests of companies from Single Economic Space member states in Kyrgyzstan).
  6. It will practically become a Central Asian railway ring that will ensure a solution to the Fergana valley’s transport cul-de-sac without excessive and imposing proposals by China and largely preserve economic independence and the fulfilment of all obligations within the CIS, the Eurasian Economic Community, the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the Customs Union/the Single Economic Space.
  7. China may later join the Bishkek-Balykchi-Naryn-Osh (Jalal-Abad) line with a 1,435mm gauge, but the main line will definitely remain a broad gauge of 1,520 mm. Linking a possible line from China will be a result of negotiations between the private partner and the Chinese side with account of real freight potential of export-import traffic of all Central Asian countries together, not separately. Moreover, the construction and operation of a powerful transport and logistics centre at the break-of-gauge point within the country will become a guarantee for securing the protection of Kyrgyzstan’s economic interests and will serve as an impetus to the development of civilised regional trade.
  8. Extending the trans-Kyrgyzstan line to the main deposits of natural resources and major infrastructure facilities (above all, hydropower stations) will make it possible to remarkably intensify mining projects along the route with the gradual establishment of processing facilities in the future. The synergy of the railway line and cheap electric power will largely shape investors’ interest in developing natural resources on a long-term basis and will ensure stable revenues for the central and local budgets, creating tens of thousands of jobs and a market for local small and medium-sized businesses.
  9. A possible branch of the trans-Kyrgyz railway line from the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana valley to the Chon-Alay valley and the construction of a direct road through Jergital to Dushanbe will solve the problem of Tajikistan’s access international transport corridors bypassing Uzbekistan. Access to Tajikistan’s Sogd Region and a link to the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana valley also appears attractive. As a result, we can talk about the Kazakh-Kyrgyz-Tajik transport corridor if the consortium expands to Tajikistan and takes part in these public-private partnership projects. This issue will become very topical in case of Tajikistan’s membership of the Customs Union.
  10. The construction of the line will be a major infrastructure project with a strong trickledown effect generating 10-15% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP (based on the experience of building Astana — 10%). Thanks to the consumption of significant volumes of construction materials, frames, equipment and vehicles and the involvement of foreign contractors, local business and labour, the project will generate interest among many major corporations from Single Economic Space member states, as well as companies from countries that have experience in building railways in complicated geological and mountainous conditions (South America, Africa, India and China).
  11. Unconditional reticence will be the division of issues of the quick recovery of costs of this line (commercially such projects are usually recovered in 20 to 30 years) and the geopolitical and geo-economic importance of this project, especially in terms of the unity of the country as such and stability in the region in general. If we assume that losses from instability in 2005 and 2010 with account of losses, investor flight, closed borders and direct material damages (the destruction of neighbourhoods and infrastructure), forced migration and so on accounted for 10% of the country’s GDP or some $500m per year, the construction of the line worth $1.5bn equals to damages inflicted by three years of instability. The railway line will serve as a factor of stability and ensure links between regions, connecting major economic hubs and allowing goods and mobile labour to access European and Asian markets via Kazakhstan.
  12. All estimates were made and conclusions were drawn without account of geological specifics of the construction of the railway line, but experience accumulated in other countries, especially China (the Qinghai-Tibet railway line), India (Darjeeling), Peru (the Andes), South Korea and Switzerland (the constructions of long tunnels under rocks) and other projects that have built railways in mountains, offers technical capabilities for the construction of such line.
  13. Reasoning and proposals made by experts will in any case require further debate at different levels by the expert community and parties concerned.

 

Benefits

Firstly, the longitudinal railway line will link geographically divided the North and South of Kyrgyzstan.

Secondly, this project will offer equal access to the development of natural resources and other investment projects to major global companies and players from neighbouring countries, whereas priority will be given to Chinese companies in case of the construction of China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway line.

Thirdly, this project will ease transport tension between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan because it will provide an alternative railway access to the Fergana valley.

Fourthly, the possible extension of the line to Tajikistan will positively influence the development of the entire Fergana valley and the whole of Central Asia.

  • This reasoning, if translated into a programme of national economic paradigm, may become a basis for a platform/economic programme for sound political forces;
  • Kyrgyzstan’s unity in economic sense is acquiring specific value and this makes it possible to identify real landmarks in contrast to vague and unclear forecasts and alternatives scenarios for the country’s development in the medium-term and long-term;
  • The aforementioned synopsis may be important for correcting activities of international organisations and multinationals that have interests in Kyrgyzstan;
  • Public-private partnership as a basis for the implementation of the project will benefit Customs Union/Single Economic Space member states and taking into account major geopolitical actors’ (the European Union, the USA, Iran and, to some extent, China) interests in the region will significantly reduce tension in the region in the long-term.
  • Bringing Kyrgyzstan’s regions closer will benefit the country’s economic development and regional trade, the development of natural resources and the creation of new industries, offering the de-facto united country a chance to occupy a deserved place in a new geo-economic and geopolitical system in Central Eurasia.

Статьи и книги по теме:

Посмотреть все записи с меткой: