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Kazakhstan to build $7 billion high-speed freight line linking China, European Union

Last week, Kazakhstan railroad Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) announced it will build a 2,450-mile high-speed freight railway to move oil from the Caspian Sea to Chinese and European markets. To be completed by 2010, the $5 billion to $7 billion line is designed to halve transit times for moving oil, as well as minerals, food and other commodities.

Running from Urumqui, China, through Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey to the European Union, the line will be built in stages. Construction is under way on the first 198-mile section between Dostyk and Aktogai, Kazakhstan. In 2005 or 2006, KTZ plans to begin building a 310-mile section between Bineu and Saksaulskaya, Kazakhstan.

The Pan-Eurasian line will enter Europe through an 8.7-mile tunnel built 197 feet below sea level under the Bosphorus straits. Japanese construction firm Taisei is building the $932 million tunnel, which is scheduled to be completed in 2009. As part of the project, KTZ also will install fiber-optic cable along the line's right of way to offer high-capacity information technology and cargo tracking services.

KTZ officials, who are soliciting domestic and foreign investors to help finance the project, recently secured $3.5 billion from private Asian investors.

"The railway will provide increased capacity for trade between China, Kazakhstan and the European Union, and is estimated to generate $20 billion in revenue each year," said KTZ Vice President Kanat Zhangaskin in a prepared statement.

Earlier this year, KTZ obtained kits from GE Transportation to modernize 54 locomotives and extend their lifespan about 20 years.

Kazakhstan's railroad — which dates from the Soviet era — currently is incompatible with other countries' railways, requiring freight to be reloaded at China's and Turkmenistan's borders. Freight moving from Pacific ports to Western Europe takes 50 days by sea and 15 days via the Trans-Siberian railway.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/24/2004