CONSTRUCTION of the proposed rail link between Central Asia and China could get under way by the end of this year, following approval of the project by the Kyrgyzstan parliament in December. This established the line as the country’s top infrastructure priority. A tripartite intergovernmental commission, with representatives from Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan and China, is currently reviewing the project design, with the aim of attracting foreign investment.

On January 11, the Director of the Kyrgyz State Agency on Main Railroads Construction Erkin Massadykov suggested that the 600 km Y-shaped network linking Jalal-Abad and Balykchi to the Chinese border at Torugart (RG 8.00 p485) could be completed by 2005. He felt the cost of US$2bn to US$2·5bn could be recovered in around 30 years.

Massadykov expects substantial benefits from completion of the north-south route between Kazarman and Balykchi. At present Kyrgyzstan is paying around US$50m a year shipping traffic between Bishkek and Jalal-Abad over a circular route via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. n