TURKMENISTAN President S Niyazov has set up an international project group to push ahead with development of two corridors linking the Central Asian states and the Persian Gulf. His intention is to make Turkmenistan the centre of the region’s rail network.

The north-south corridor will integrate the Tedjen - Sarakhs line to Iran, completed two years ago, with the planned 450 km link from Turkmenbashi to Yeralivo in Kazakhstan (RG 11.97 p725). The east-west corridor uses a train ferry to link the ex-SZD route from Toshkent to Turkmenbashi via Ashgabat with the Caucasian line between Baku and Poti.

Completion of Iran’s direct route from Mashhad to Bafgh, linking into the line to the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas, is expected to generate up to 15 million tonnes a year. Sarakhs handled 500000 tonnes of freight in its first year, and is currently transhipping 130 wagons a day. Throughput is expected to reach 2 million tonnes in 2000, and eventually 7 million. o