China proposes new cross-border rail route

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China has proposed a Silk Road high-speed rail route connecting the country’s northwest region to West Asia via Central Asia, aimed at overcoming the cross-border connectivity problem.

He Huawu, chief engineer of China Railway Corp, put forward the proposal at forum on the One Belt, One Road Initiative hosted by China Civil Engineering Society, the People’s Daily reported on Saturday.

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The proposed route starts from China’s Urumqi and Yining to Almaty in Kazakhstan, then to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, Tashkent and Samarkand in Uzbekistan, Ashgabat in Turkmenistan and finally Teheran, Iran.

The northeast-southwest line would be complementary to the existing railway network in central Asian nations, which mostly run southeast to northwest toward Moscow, He said.

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Changing gauges at the border takes days for cargo and significantly cuts railway transport’s competitiveness against shipping by sea.

“The Khorgos station bordering Kazakhstan last year handled less than 17 million metric tonnes of cargo running at full capacity, but beyond the station, the east-west annual cargo transportation capacity is 100 million tons,” He said.

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“Increased container traffic and sea container traffic moved by land instead could justify the cost of building the line.”

According to He, container trains and passenger trains could run on the same route. The only difference would be speed. A passenger train could run at 250 to 300 km/hour, while a container train could run at 120 km/h.

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