LAST MONTH was due to see the launch of regular freight services between Toshkent and northwestern Uzbekistan via Uchkuduk, following the inauguration of a new cut-off to avoid a section of former Soviet main line which now runs through Turkmenistan.

Ceremonies were held in February to mark the completion of the 224 km new line from Uchkuduk to Misken in the province of Karakalpakstan. Work began on the project in 1993, then costed at US$800m. It was expected to take seven years to complete.

Work included upgrading of UTY’s existing line from Navoi to Uchkuduk, plus the construction of the new line from the former terminus to Karakalpakstan. Within the province, a new cut-off would link Sultanuizdag and Nukus. Civil works on the Sultanuizdag section were due to have been completed in 1996 (RBR 96 p61). n