August 13, 2014
Orient Express
Many experts assert that nowadays major infrastructure projects carried out to build robust logistical chains between regions and continents are among the few stimuli to boost the global economic growth. Most of such projects are about rail transportation that plays a leading infrastructural role in Eurasia. Uzbekistan has been active in taking part in the implementation of global transportation projects to build interconnected railroad networks throughout the Eurasian landmass.

Rail transportation traditionally plays a key role in economic development – not only because it allows for transporting goods and commodities, but also because it is predictable, reliable and accurate to a large extent, which is very important for business. Railroads with their well-established and clear logistical properties are what entrepreneurs can always enjoy. Railways, in contrast to their competitors providing road freight services, for instance, are the best choice when it comes to transportation of machinery and bulk goods for the most attractive price. Currently, railroads act as major links between suppliers of raw materials, manufacturers of semi-finished and finished products, including makers of heavy equipment, and retailers.

Uzbekistan, whose industrial production grows year by year, strives to fully benefit from the major railroad facilities linking the eastern and western parts of the continent. The country, situated in the heart of Central Asia, is making great efforts to realize its unique through haulage potential and create favorable environment for international logistics companies. In order to achieve these goals, Uzbekistan uses an integrated approach, considering it to be crucial: it builds new railroad lines, modernizes and electrifies the existing ones, renews the fleets of locomotives, organizes high-speed rail transit, etc.

Uzbekistan’s rail transportation history is never too short. Its first iron horses started running just 60 years after the world’s first public railroad line using steam locomotives had been built by George Stephenson in England in 1825. In 1874, the railroad line Orenburg – Tashkent was designed for the first time. It was later replaced with one of a line between the future capital of Uzbekistan and the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea – the Trans-Caspian Railroad. In 1888, after the wooden bridge across the river Amudaryo had been built, a line to Samarqand started its operation, and it reached Tashkent in 1899. Today’s domestic railroad system is one of Uzbekistan’s largest industries. The total length of its railroad lines is over 6,000km, and it grows annually. Currently, over 60% of the cargo and over 75% of the passengers in the country are carried by rail. This huge system run by the state joint stock rail company Uzbekistan Railways employs over 54,000 people across Uzbekistan.

The company has already implemented dozens of projects. Many of them have no equivalents in the world in terms of engineering solutions. Among them stands out the construction of the railroad line Toshguzar – Boysun – Qumqurghon. This line running over the Gissar Mountain Range connects Qashqadaryo and Surkhondaryo Regions with the rest of the country.

Although the construction of it was carried out in extremely hard conditions, the builders managed to lay 223km of the line at an altitude of 1,800m for 33 months. They also built 564 major culverts and 43 bridges. The bridge over the Konsoy near the village of Qoradakhna in Dehqonobod District is unique: it is 234.2-meter long and 45-meter high. The construction of the line involved drilling and blasting rock, which took most of the time and was the major difficulty of the project. The builders noted that if a 3-meter-high wall was made of the rock that had been removed during the construction, it would encircle the earth. The railroad line allowed for implementation of a number of industrial projects: the construction of Dehqonobod potash fertilizers factory, development of Shorgun and Boysun coal mines, Khondiz mine of complex ores and many others. The line also became the main artery used to transport cargo to Afghanistan. It has stimulated the growth in the industrial production in the region and boosted the logistical relations between the countries in it. It has paved the way for future mega-projects aimed at creation of a freight line through Afghanistan and Iran to the Persian Gulf ports.

Foreign experts confirm the high professionalism and qualification of Uzbekistan’s rail builders, which is proved by the fact that they were invited to build the railroad line Hairaton – Mazar-e-Sharif – one of Afghanistan’s major projects. They built 106km of the line, five stations, 29 artificial terrain structures, sand drift fences and all the other necessary facilities. The line is extremely important for Afghanistan, for after a long period of instability in the country its transportation infrastructure had been almost entirely destroyed. The line built by Uzbekistan’s rail builders now allows for reliable transportation of cargo in the most developed and densely populated northern provinces of Afghanistan, which will undoubtedly contribute to the development of their industries.

The above projects demonstrate the remarkable records of Uzbekistan Railways, and its current activities are never less impressive. First of all, the construction of the electrified railroad line Angren – Pop must be mentioned. The line is expected to build an optimal logistical network connecting South and Central Asia’s countries with the Middle East and Europe. The construction of the line started in 2013, with the Chinese company China Railway Tunnel Group cooperating with Uzbekistan Railways in it under a $455-million contract. The Chinese company is to build a tunnel for the line.

The renewal of the fleets of Uzbekistan’s rail industry is another course of its development strategy. The fleets are to consist of the most modern and environment friendly locomotives. Today, Uzbekistan Railways operates 242 mainline and 258 shunting diesel locomotives and 100 electric ones.

Last year the company purchased eleven electric locomotives OZEL designed jointly by Chinese, Japanese and Uzbek engineers. Besides, local manufacturers launched production of modern freight and passenger cars. Andijon Mechanical Factory, for instance, launched production of tank cars for the transportation of petroleum products and chemicals, and Tashkent Passenger Car Repair Factory began producing passenger compartment cars. Especially important was the $150-million project of construction of freight car building and repairs facilities and modernization of the foundry facilities at Casting and Mechanical Plant. The plant now uses machinery and technologies supplied by leading German manufacturers and is capable of producing up to 1,200 cars and 950 railroad containers, as well as repairing 1,500 freight cars annually.

Uzbekistan’s rail system boasts Central Asia’s first high-speed railroad line. It was built to link Tashkent and Samarqand. Uzbekistan purchased Spanish Talgo high-speed trains for the line and named them Afrosiyob after the famous Samarqand’s ancient settlement site. It must be noted that the line was built in two years’ time, with the expertise and resources gained for further construction of such lines in the country. The plan for the near future is to extend the existing line to Bukhoro and Khiva. Since the launch of the line in September 2011, over 600,000 passengers have used its services.

(Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)


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