The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $162 million loan that will electrify 465 kilometers of railway line connecting major urban centers in western Uzbekistan, improving railway services and boosting trade and tourism in the region.
The project will electrify the track linking Bukhara, Miskin, Urgench, and Khiva—a UNESCO world heritage site in the Khorezm region. It will enable the operation of high-speed trains that run at up to 250 kilometers per hour, cutting travel time between Bukhara and Khiva by up to two hours, and making the journey to Khiva from the capital Tashkent possible in seven hours.
“Reliable and safe transport infrastructure is a key driver of economic growth, particularly in double landlocked Uzbekistan,” said ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Yevgeniy Zhukov. “ADB’s project will help create an economic corridor linking the heritage-rich Khorezm region to the rest of Uzbekistan, supporting the recovery in tourism from COVID-19, and further establishing the country as a regional transit hub.”
The project is part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Corridor 2, which links the People’s Republic of China to Europe via Central Asia. It will help improve Uzbekistan’s connectivity and trade with neighboring countries and further afield, by expanding the frequency and quality of train services.
ADB will also support the development of the tourism industry in the project area by developing an electronic ticketing system, training and involving women in tourism management, and guiding urban development around train stations with access and safety features for women, children, the elderly, and the mobility impaired.
Once the Bukhara to Khiva line is electrified, annual passenger traffic is expected to increase from around 280,000 passengers this year to more than 1,000,000 passengers by 2026. Freight is projected to reach a total of 11.8 million tons per year by 2026.
“ADB’s project will have several beneficial impacts on agriculture, industry, and tourism,” said ADB Director of Transport and Communications for Central and West Asia Hideaki Iwasaki. “It will also support Uzbekistan’s shift to low-carbon transportation by enabling the railway line’s switch from diesel traction to electricity, supporting the country’s efforts to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement.”
The government has also requested a loan of $108 million from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, subject to its board approval. ADB will partially administer this loan. ADB will also provide a $300,000 technical assistance grant to support key gender actions such as training select women students in railway operations and management.